Mindworks’ Weblog

Thinking Matters


Posted by Andrew Cooper on July 11, 2008

A quick postscript to that last post.

Arthur Koestler coined the word bisociation to describe the fusing of two existing ideas or technologies to form something new.

A tea pot

A tea pot

You can try this for yourself.   Think of two disconnected things – I have just thought of ‘tea pot’ and ‘nuclear power’ – and then simply join them together.  Voila!  I have just invented the nuclear-powered tea pot and it’s only five past seven. I think I’ll put that on my business card, which doesn’t actually have a job description yet – Andrew Cooper, inventor of the nuclear powered tea pot.  It would at least be a talking point.

When you know about bisociation it’s incredibly easy to be an inventor. Unfortunately most of the ideas you’ll invent will be about as useful as a nuclear powered teapot.  But the bisociations of clockwork+radio and turbine technology+burning hydrocarbon fuels, to name a couple of real-life examples, were both developed into rather useful innovations.

While I can claim to have invented the nuclear-powered tea pot, it doesn’t qualify as an innovation yet because I haven’t actually made one and you certainly can’t by them in Tescos.  It hasn’t ‘added any value’ or changed things in the real world apart, perhaps, from what’s going on inside your head.

Shouldn’t be too difficult, though, should it?  All I need is a small supply of enriched uranium, some graphite, lead shielding, a tea pot and a few other bits and pieces.  We have a tea pot so I’m already half-way there.


2 Responses to “Bisociation”

  1. […] people have developed over the years as they’ve played with Huge.  Many of them make the nuclear powered teapot seem quite sensible.  I think my favourite is Huge Hedges, which – the originator of the idea […]

  2. […] that language is important is that it’s central to how we think.  Imagine inventing a nuclear powered tea pot without having the words ‘nuclear powered’ and ‘tea pot’ in your head.  […]

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