Recycle, reuse, remix, repeat – be daringly (un-)original

Albert Einstein is credited – perhaps inaccurately – with the saying ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results’ and this received wisdom inhibits us, I think, from trying something the same, albeit with a different twist.

When I set up this site I was initially unsure whether to start again from scratch or to include the posts from my original site that I set up in 2007. Because exporting and importing WordPress content from one blog to another was pretty straightforward I went for the second option with an intention to vigorously prune the old content. I’ve spent a few hours going through my old posts – they needed a bit of re-formatting anyway – and discovered that almost all of the content stood the test of time.

Really saying something

Having looked at the 60-plus posts I realised that none of them say anything particularly original but then I realised that most of the time we are recycling ideas, stories, received opinions and – to be really on-trend – fake news  from elsewhere rather than being genuinely original. And actually that’s OK, it’s part of being human.

I was further reassured last week when I read a post on Open For Ideas that said just that (so there you go, I’m recycling a viewpoint from elsewhere that I happen to agree with). However that doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative when you do recycle someone else’s idea. For example you can use an idea from one domain to see how it fits in another – the ‘gig economy world of Uber, Nimber, Deliveroo etc is a good example.

And just yesterday I went to see an exhibition of the artist Paul Nash at Tate Britain. Nash absorbed influences from cubism and surrealism during his career and  whilst these influences are obvious in a lot of his work it didn’t prevent him from having his own distinctive style.

So re-use, re-work etc is OK, but how can it help the world’s fog-knitters?

Getting the foggiest idea

Applying this original unoriginality to knitting fog – bringing clarity to business-critical issues where there are a number of known (and unknown) unknowns with some out of our control – is essential. When we’re faced with these kind of issues – which usually result in organisations being stuck in some way – we need to cast the widest possible net to get ideas on how to move forward. This includes looking at old ideas in a new light as well as new ideas (or ideas recycled from somewhere else).

Let’s say you need to refine your marketing strategy to deal with new, low-cost competitors. Previously you might have used customer focus groups to shape the products and services you currently offer. It’s this approach that’s got you to where you are so inevitably a suggestion to re-use the same approach is likely to be viewed negatively. However, as an idea, it’s certainly got merit so maybe re-mixing it with a different idea – online focus groups, asking non-customers or asking the same customers different questions for example – might have more success. The point I’m making here is that just because it’s an old idea doesn’t mean it’s a bad one: in this rather generalised example it might just provide the clarity required.

Dare to be the same

Back to Einstein: it’s certainly true that if you make the same mistakes over and over without changing anything, you’re unlikely to achieve success. Recycling old or borrowed ideas is slightly different: the key is to get feedback as soon as possible as to the effectiveness of the idea once it’s deployed. If you always get the same result, Einstein’s axiom is worth following – in which case there are plenty more ideas out there to recycle and reuse.


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