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The Power Of The Icon

I've had a mind-blowingly awesome couple days since reading Gamestorming by a few of the folks over at Xplane. I've always been an adherent to the idea that business functions by the rules of games, so it's only obvious that the process of brainstorming should as well. But this particular book did an excellent job of codifying the processes involved.

One specific thing really stood out for me in the text, though. And that was the emphasis on icons.

We've all known that using notes cards or post-up notes has become a staple of the brainstorming process. It allows us to quickly rearrange thoughts and group ideas for exploration. But what I hadn't considered is that writing an idea on a post-up note transforms the idea into an icon. And as an icon, it holds more value to the brainstorming process.

As idea alone, words function only as far as the idea itself. Mentally we still have to wrestle with the idea in our minds and try to unpack meaning from the ideas. However, when an idea becomes an icon, it functions as a piece in a much larger puzzle.

Think about this in religious terms. We can read the text of John in the Bible and we can derive meaning from that text. But the text will only take us down a complicated road of religious dogma. We don't see the text in the larger context of religion as a whole. But when we simply assign all this meaning into the form of a cross and simplify the complex into a symbol, we encapsulate all of the meaning contained in the Book of John and create a powerful device. This device helps us move beyond wrestling with the specifics of that particular set of ideas and see it in the context of other religions and faith as a whole. We can move the object and never disturb any of it's meaning. It becomes more functional to our deeper understanding and can be visually rearranged with other such icons representing other faiths to create broader meanings than the mind was originally able to comprehend, locked into the words alone.

To put it simply, turning the complex into visual icons helps us to think outside the boundaries we place upon ourselves every day. Just think how this can transform the way we perceive the world around us. And consider what it can do to the creativity and innovation produced by your company.

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