Marmite and cream cheese? A winning combination

Marmite and cream cheese? A winning combination

A common challenge I get asked about in relation to creativity in the workplace, is how to tame the seemingly ‘unpredictable’ nature of idea generation. Renowned creativity researcher Margaret A. Boden used many different studies to identify three different ‘types’ of creativity:

  1. Combinational creativity – combine existing ideas to make something new
  2. Exploratory creativity – experiment with the new outside of your space
  3. Transformational creativity – change up the game

Thinking about creativity like this can help us to start to define the kind of creative ideas we want or need, and adopt process and tools to do so. I was reminded of this when I bought the cream cheese and marmite spread combo at M&S yesterday. (It’s pictured above alongside another winning blend of peanut butter and marmite.) I’ve been combining soft cheese and marmite (much to my son’s disgust) for years, so wondered how this idea came about. Was it via customer insights via design thinking or perhaps using this method?

combinational creativityCombinational creativity is defined as the ‘generation of new ideas through the combination of old ideas.’ Boden looked at reams of neuroscience research which focusses on the brain activity that leads to making those connections. The premise is that we have ‘old’ ideas in our brains, both conscious and unconscious and in the world too. We can make unfamiliar combinations of familiar ideas to form something new.

When described like this it’s easy to see examples all around us, and it’s a simple way to try to trigger product innovation like the Unilever teams have done with Marmite and peanut butter. Can you think of any examples of combinational creativity, food or otherwise?

Ask yourself:

What’s an unusual combination I can think of? Certainly The Art Institute of Chicago and Air BnB is not obvious but definitely worked winning awards for impact and creativity.

What assets or elements do we already have that we could combine?

Combining an issue for your customer with your sponsorship assets is a great take on this that Dacia cars has used to great effect with Dacia Sponsor Day.

What could you combine to create something new? Love it or hate it, the method works (boom boom)!

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