Apply an innovator’s mindset to news stories for creative inspiration

In this opinion piece, PermissionToPlay founder, Kevin Mann, champions new discoveries and technologies as key drivers for creativity and innovation.

About Kevin

Kevin Mann

A self-confessed creativity buff, Kevin helps teams acquire the skills and confidence to be highly inventive by delving into the creative thinking methods and techniques of today’s leading innovators.


Previously, he was a marketing director and strategist with over 20 years’ experience supporting organisations going through major change, from start-ups to large mergers and break-ups. He has worked across diverse sectors, from financial services and tech to charities.

Artificial intelligence, new gene therapies, driverless vehicles, drones, war on plastics and box satellites are just some of the new technologies and discoveries talked up in the news. There are also numerous smaller or niche developments that don’t make the headlines in the mainstream media.


Despite this abundance of stories that grab our passing attention, we often fail to turn that interesting spark into potential.

An innovator’s mindset

To turn news into idea springboards, we should adopt more of an innovator’s mindset. That means picking a story and asking these three simple questions:

1. The “What?” – Identify & understand developments

First and foremost, the objective is to identify and understanding new interesting developments. What are they, how they work, where they have come from?


How you define “interesting” is key and should be focused on encouraging mental stimulation. It could a field directly relevant or adjacent to yours, or simply one known for innovation or strangeness. It could also be a totally unconnected field which has recently seen a lot of transformation or real difficulty.


So, it is firstly about broadening and deepening the knowledge needed to stimulate creativity.

Early bi-plane

2. The “So What?” – Predict trends and impacts

The second aspect is to try to extrapolate where these developments could be leading.


Do they bring any immediate threats or opportunities? Will the waves of change impact only in their immediate vicinity, or could they have knock effects elsewhere? Are they a symptom of a broader underlying trend?

SapceX rocket

3. The “Now What?” – Courses of action

The final aspect is to decide how to proceed with this new learning and information.

You could incubate

It could be information that is interesting, but of no immediate concern or use. So, the best course of action is simply let the information settle in people’s minds. As we’ve seen from Graham Wallas, incubation can lead to a magical AHA! moment.

You could explore or analyse

This would mean initiating some more research to deepen and broaden knowledge further, usually with a specific interest or question in mind. At the very minimum this could be: “let’s review where this has got to in a year’s time” for example.

Finally, you could experiment

This means actively trying out the new technology and adapting it to your situation or field. Experimenting is as much a learning exercise as exploration and analysis. It is about discovery, so should be allowed to fail and adapt freely.


By applying an innovator’s inquisitive mindset to news, the latest technological developments become invaluable drivers for creativity and innovation. They bring new possibilities and knowledge to bear on the situation. New materials or discoveries can revolutionise how things are done, often in the most indirect and unexpected ways.


Similarly, there aren’t many problems we face that nature hasn’t already tackled, probably multiple times in different ways. The natural world is a vast catalogue of technological innovations which is also worth exploring for inspiration.