Originality, Generating Lot of Ideas & Innovation Mindset

Shah Mohammed
4 min readMar 2, 2022

If somebody describes someone or their work as Original, it means that they are very imaginative and have new ideas. Most of us aspire to be called Originals.

There are several techniques to become an Original. Let’s see one of them.

COLGATE MINI TOOTHBRUSH — In 2006, Colgate wanted to launch a disposable mini toothbrush. This new toothbrush did not need any mouth rinsing. Therefore, it could be used inside a cab/aircraft.

The brand naming team began to brainstorm ideas for the product name. Unfortunately, they could focus solely on the smaller size of the brush as it was a dominating value proposition. They generated names related to tiny/smallness — Petite Brush, Mini-brush, Brush-let. Most of the ideas were similar. The management was not happy with the choices. Finally, Colgate approached a design studio and asked them for a new product name.

Ideas need to be distinctively different and meaningful, not just tweakings of one concept/idea — For that, we need to think in different directions/perspectives. It would result in unexpected, disruptive ideas.

The design team wanted to venture into various directions to generate distinctively different ideas(other than focusing on small/tiny size). One of the ways to generate new ideas is — Look at other attributes/traits/advantages of the product/service. The team observed other attributes of the mini toothbrush and began to brainstorm ideas. They looked for metaphors, sounds, words that could convey the specific trait.

  • One trait was the “beauty” — the oral care — Better looking white teeth and a pleasant smile. The team generated names that conveyed beauty.
  • Then, the team generated names based on different advantages of the toothbrush — No need to spit out, no big mass of minty lather or foam(A strong feature).
  • They also generated names based on other product attributes — Lightness, Cleanliness, Softness, and so on.

Out of the long list of words that communicated lightness, emerged a name WISP — Which means a small, thin, twisted bunch(Wisp of rising smoke) representing Lightness.

The Lightness direction gave them an interesting name that most people liked — the WISP brand name was born.

BLACKBERRY BRAND NAME —In the late 1990s, a Canadian company, RIM planned to launch a handheld device to help executives send/receive emails wirelessly. They were looking for a suitable name for that product — Their initial options were EasyMail, MegaMail, PocketMail. Those names were not distinct from each other. It appeared like a variation of the same concept. Finally, the company approached Lexicon Consulting and tasked them to find a suitable name.

The design team did detailed user research. They came across a valuable insight — For most corporate executives, e-mail wasn’t a convenience but a stress point. Their anxiety levels went up whenever they received a work e-mail. For some, it continuously reminded them about their perceived inadequacies. So, it was clear that the Mail word in the product brand name would trigger anxiety in a user.

The solution was to come out with a name that wouldn’t trigger any uneasiness. A soothing name that could calm the nerves — that could bring joy, slow their life, make them relax, and enjoy. The team brainstormed for appropriate words — Camping, Movies, Cycling, Summer Vacation, Melons — the names went on. And, someone added ‘Picking Strawberries’ as a relaxing and pleasant exercise.

Lexicon founder David Placek didn’t like Strawberry. He felt that it unfurled too slowly when he said it. He believed that the word would not work for a device that boasted on speeding up communications. Designers started to search for names of similar vowels ‘Strawberry’. One person scrabbled ‘Blackberry’ as he felt that the device’s miniature elliptical keys resembled blackberry seeds.

Thus the BlackBerry brand name was born.


In both BlackBerry and Colgate scenarios, the design team succeeded because they generated multiple concepts(also, they were distinctively different). Our first ideas are largely conventional or closest to default that already exists. Our brain picks up the most straightforward patterns as it tries to conserve its energy. Others also could come out with identical solutions. But with multiple concepts, the chances of you and others generating the same idea were minimal.

Adam Grant writes that Creative Geniuses weren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers. They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality.

The odds of producing an influential or successful idea is a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.

Adam continues — Over two decades, Shakespeare produced 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Out of that, only a few became famous — Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello.

A few years back, an organization ranked the top 50 greatest pieces of classical music. In that list, five were by Mozart, five by Beethoven, and three by Bach. Mozart composed more than 600 pieces before his death at thirty-five, Beethoven 650, and Bach over a thousand.

Picasso made 1800 paintings, 1200 sculptures, 2800 ceramic works, and 12000 drawings, excluding his other works on prints, rugs, and tapestries. Only a small percentage of his gained mass attention.

Einstein had 248 publications. Only three created a massive impact.

CONCLUSION — Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection. So, to be creative or to be called Original, generate several concepts/solutions for every problem.

Research shows that people generate their most original output during the periods in which they produce the largest volume.

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References:: ORIGINALS: How Non-Conformists Move The World by Adam Grant.