Roger von Oech

Creative Think

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Karl Boggs

To be honest the graphic that was created already has a retro style in my opinion which seems great for steampunk novels but I am not so sure about innovation programs. But as most corporate things go it will probably be re-branded quite a few times in 15 years. IBM used the Pisces symbol and a stylized version of Daedalus' labyrinth for the invnetion recognition program. Graphically they were really cool; metaphorically, I think it was a bit arcane.

I have a particular fondness for fern spirals (the koru) as a symbol of growth/progress and lightning for ideas.

Ryan Karpeles

Sadly enough, the name of my blog is "Living Light Bulbs." That may have to change depending on where this conversation ends up...

But here are a few suggestions for new metaphors:

A MATCH - worthless until lit, but powerful when ignited

A SNEEZE - comes out of nowhere, varies from person to person, and is usually quite explosive

LIGHTNING - occurs in a flash, provides enormous power in a quick burst

FIREWORKS - (see 'a match')

WATER BALLOON - tons of potential energy, can be played with by many, spreads quickly when it erupts

DREAMS - emotional, abstract, mysterious, but unfortunately hard to visually depict

Kem Ibekwe

what about lightning symbol?

Kem Ibekwe

or the twinkling little stars?

patti digh

I'm just trying to figure out what metaphor we could use to represent the power of metaphor... ;-)


Well, Ryan already beat me to it, but I support the lightning symbol. If the light bulb symbolized ideas coming in a flash, what better way to represent the same with a flash of lightning itself?


Yeah, but lightning is even older than the light bulb! Maybe it is because I am getting old, but I like the light bulb... the impact on the world was huge; the failures that came before it reinforce the "try and try again" aspect of creativity; and Mr. Edison still stand strong as one of the most amazingly innovative and creative dudes who has ever walked the planet.


Just a thought triggered by your reference to the LP phonograph. There are now a lot of people who can't relate to the expression "You sound like a broken record." What's the modern equivalent of that? And do musical groups still release "albums"?

Nedra Weinreich

To me, the best metaphor for creativity would have something to do with making a new mental connection between things that were not connected before. I'm not sure how to depict that graphically, though. I don't think neural dendrites would quite work. :-)

Or maybe something clicking into place. A puzzle piece? A key unlocking a brain?

I guess I'll have to leave that to the graphic design geniuses to figure out. Thanks for a fun thinking exercise.

Chris Tammen

Perhaps a wrench would work. Like the light bulb, it requires something else to be fully utilized (electricity or human effort). It may also highlight one's creativity in that it represents building the right solution, perfecting an ad strategy or inventing a new product. Depicting the "building" rather than "repairing" aspect would be the biggest challenge here. For that reason, I avoided my first choice which was a hammer.

Scott McArthur

How about simply using a colour? I'd go for gold!?

Labora Turcica

A more environmental approach: A triangular prism dispersing light

Thomas B

With all due respect Roger, the way you refer to "environmentalists" as "the environmentalists" is sooooo 1980s and 1990ish. Green is the new cool, and is about to become permanently embedded as a core value system in the majority of folks. And thanks to the spirit of innovation that you have fostered and taught over the years, many super innovative renewable energy companies are sprouting in your own backyard----Silicon Valley. With this in mind, I think a new symbol for creativity should involve some kind of green-oriented icon. A firefly (although hard to render), a spiral fern shape, a 3-atom molecule where the atoms are lightbulbs could be possibilities. I also think something compelling could be done with a sand dollar, although not quite sure what. Certainly, lightening symbols are great, but they need to be combined with an additional symbol, like a human mind with a grid overlay with lightening overtop. It's definitely a challenging problem! Good luck!

Roger von Oech

Thomas: Thanks for your comment: "The way you refer to 'environmentalists' . . . is sooooo 1980s and 1990ish. Green is the new cool"

I won't dispute your comment that "green" is the new cool. And that is actually pretty cool.

I believe, though, that there is a whole spectrum of people with "Green/Environmentalism" beliefs. Some are coming from a place of responsible consumption and design (use of renewable resources is good for the planet), some from national security concerns (use less energy and put less money in the hands of the oil producers), and some from a place of fear (global warming frenzy), etc. I have read about certain fairly vocal groups pushing for the banning of the incandescent light bulb (I think Canada has already banned its use by the year 2012).

My point in my post is that within the context of a book cover: why put a symbol on your cover that some of your potential buyers have already begun to vilify? Why not come up with with something different? That's a marketing comment as much as a political comment.

Thomas B

Hi Roger, Wow! Thank you for replying to my comment. I feel honoured, as you've been an idol of mine for the past two decades. Yes, I certainly agree with you that there is a whole spectrum of motives fueling the adoption of greener values and practices, but the ones I don't like too much are the fear mongers. It seems that since time immemorial, there have always been a small percentage of the population that allows fear of real and/or imagined events to control their lives and to almost paralyze them. I also wonder about how the emotion of fear can affect creativity. In my opinion, too much fear can stifle creativity, as there ends up being too much focus on the crisis aspect of the potential threat. However, for those who are able to temper their fear and see the inevitable opportunity that goes hand in hand with a crisis, creativity can flourish. A little bit of fear is healthy so long as it does not become the focus, and so long as it can be channeled towards seeing abundant opportunity, at which point creative problem solving can take over. It just seems that some folks aren't able to take their focus off of their fears, and I'd even go so far as to say that these people also motivate the cooler heads to find innovative solutions even more. I know this is somewhat off the topic of the thread, but I do find it fascinating how certain companies are unleashing unprecedented creativity towards climate and energy solutions, while the global warming frenzy types don't seem to be doing this. And the common denominator seems to be the intensity of fear each side feels, or allows themselves to feel.

pieter verboon

For a new innovation Metaphore I would like to suggest a water or blue wave symbol. Water is the element required for life, it is always in motion, and gives power to grow. Without water, no life. It has made the ultimate innovation possible in the evolution theory. We will always need it and it will never grow old.

good luck!

Sue Player

How about the Gordian knot slashed in 2 pieces with the sword lying next to it? This would refer to a creative solution bypassing the older more difficult ways of doing things.


Does anyone know the offical genesis of the lightbulb metaphor?


How about a curly-q fluorescent bulb?

Bobby Jameson

I like the idea about the slot machine with the jackpot, that would be neat!!!

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