The idea sounds a little ludicrous at first, but heading down the wrong path or examining an incorrect hypothesis can be an important step to creativity and innovation.  This is true for three reasons:

  1. The process of attempting to prove an idea that turns out to be false or unfounded can generate a lot of information.  Independent of the original, unproven hypothesis, this data can be extremely useful to other, often unrelated enquiries.
  2. Sometimes, the original idea is incorrect, but not totally without merit.  In his book Rethink, Steven Poole points out that scientific discoveries often come about when an idea or a hypothesis needs to be re-thought or re-examined and another path forward conceived.
  3. Being wrong is also extremely useful to highlight what we don’t know. Steven Poole claims that what we don’t know is as important as what we do know to idea advancement.

This last point is particularly intriguing – and important.  How do we zero-in on what we don’t know?  In the realm of all that’s unknown, what do we want or need to find out?  Sound confusing?  The desire to fill in the knowledge gaps is at the heart of curiosity – when we want to solve the puzzle of the unknown. Steven Poole says that the key here is a reasonable gap in knowledge.  If the gaps are too big or too numerous, the scope of what is unknown is potentially limitless.  That’s a curiosity-killer.  A reasonable gap motivates us to find the answer to complete the idea.  This is where creative strategy comes in.  Conferring with others, Socratic questioning and well-managed brainstorming allow us to identify knowledge gaps that can pique our curiosity and lead to creative thinking.