Explaining Idea-Links

So what are idea-links, exactly? Jim Link explains the process behind coining the term and putting idea-links to use.

“Some years back, I agreed to deliver a speech answering the question, How Can I Become a More Creative Person?” Jim recalls. “From my experience, I knew that nearly all ideas were inspired by taking something from one place and reconnecting it elsewhere. That’s when my first epiphany hit me; there was no a word for that connective something, nor was there a clear process for how it’s actually made.”

As someone often hired to generate new brand names, Link couldn’t resist giving these invisible idea-making particles a name as well. “I coined the term idea-link to describe an insight or realization about why or how something works or succeeds that is stored into memory,” Link explained. “Think of idea-links as the connective material that links a new idea to an old one, or the piece that connects two sides of an analogy. We’ve been making analogies for eons, but no one has ever given a name to that middle connecting piece. I felt something so important deserved a more worthy name than that thing or that element.”

Link made it his mission to make his idea-links concept applicable to as many professions as possible. “To do that, I had to explain it so anybody—a designer, a writer, a scientist—could see how to apply idea-links to their job. I thought about what kinds of idea-links exist in various functional areas: marketing, technology, publicity, finance, engineering, sales, etc. Through my workshops, I quickly realized the idea-links process works for everyone.”

Definitions from the Book

 Idea-link: (noun)

1. A succinct insight or realization about why or how something works or succeeds that is stored into memory.

2. The thought, realization or insight that connects the two sides of an analogy.

Still have questions? Download sample pages from the book or contact Jim at Jim [@] idea-link.com


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Indie Groundbreaking Book

Indie Groundbreaking Book: Idea-Links

The New Path to Creativity for All

“What if I told you that much of what you’ve heard about creativity has sent you down the wrong path?” So promises new author Jim Link in the opening line of Idea-Links: The New Creativity (Beaver’s Pond Press), his first title and our newest Groundbreaking Indie Book. Jim Link has been in the idea-generation business for more than 25 years, so he’s no stranger to the world of ideas and idea people. He’s worked with numerous corporations such as 3M, General Mills, Marriot, Nestlé, and Target through his own highly-successful idea company which he started in 1994.

Most creativity books overwhelm the reader with a laundry list of tips and techniques. Instead, Idea-Links goes deep on two processes (making idea-links and creative reframing) that help readers uncover, understand, and build creativity, both personally and in the workplace. The book is based on more than five years of workshops and a lifetime of experience working with creative people in a variety of fields.

Link got his start in marketing at General Mills, where he fell in love with creating new product ideas (and getting a paycheck out of it). Twenty years ago, he struck out on his own and started one of the world’s first idea companies, Idea-Link, Inc.. When not consulting with big-name companies, Link ran and attended seminars on creativity. As time passed, he began to see that there was a serious problem with the way we taught creativity.

“As a culture, we focus too much on the unleashing part of creativity. As a result, we’ve fallen upon the illusion that becoming more creative doesn’t require work, just letting loose or finding your inner child,” Link explained. “Many of these unleashing seminars ask you to do wacky, almost insulting exercises, like pretending you’re a chicken or tossing around toys. Yet the creative people I work with are anything but wacky and silly. I felt a strong sense of mission to set the record straight about how creative people truly make themselves more creative, then teach others to follow the same process.”

Instead of believing that creativity was an innate talent found only in a lucky few, Link began to examine the patterns and similarities of the innovative people he knew. Thankfully, his studies paid off, and he discovered that creativity could be practiced and learned. This is good news for those of us who have felt we lacked that creativity gene. Instead of hoping for those elusive “Aha!” moments, Link believes that we can set ourselves up to be more creative. According to the book, making idea-links (see the sidebar for details) and creative reframing are the two basic disciplines to becoming more creative. Link explained the two steps in layman’s terms.

“Making idea-links puts more creative raw material in your memory. If you think about creativity as ‘connecting the dots,’ making idea-links is the process of putting more dots in your brain. The second discipline, creative reframing, teaches you to ask the kinds of questions that help you connect the dots. These two disciplines, once part of your normal way of thinking, work together to build your creativity.”

Link also uncovered some key characteristics and practices that creative people have in common. He lists curiosity, analysis, focus, preparation, recording of insights and unrestricted questioning as some of the necessary elements of a creative person or team.

“The role of analysis is the most surprising (and liberating) aspect of the book,” Link asserts. “For example, people try to emulate Steve Jobs by wearing mock turtlenecks or following their passion. Sadly, they’re missing the real reason Jobs was so creative: he was deeply analytical. You see it repeatedly in his life, whether analyzing what makes great typography great, or analyzing what makes his dad’s cabinetry work so aesthetically pleasing. I call these realizations about what makes things work or succeed idea-links. Jobs stored these idea-links in his memory and reconnected them later to something entirely new. The way he manufactured his idea-links was fundamentally an analytical process.”

What powers this desire to analyze? According to Link, creative people are inherently curious. This innate curiosity drives them to dig deeper than the rest of us. “The process of noticing, analyzing and storing idea-links comes so naturally to creative people that most don’t even notice they’re doing it. Nor would they think to tell you if you asked them what makes them creative. That’s why we’ve missed it all these years. Creative folks just assume everyone does it.”

Idea-Links is full of topical examples from Link’s personal connections with some of the most creative people in the business world. His honest, straightforward style is easy to follow and Link utilizes humor, visuals, and anecdotes to make Idea-Links way more interesting than your typical business or self-improvement read. Each chapter ends with a concise summary, making it simple for readers from all job backgrounds to understand and apply his methods.

“The first step for any company is to figure out what you need to be more creative about, whether it is new product ideas, coming up with new ways to generate publicity, or a plan to reduce costs,” Link explained. “Then go through the process of finding idea-links; for example, start looking at other cost saving successes and extract idea-links or principles behind what made each work. Then begin the creative reframing process by asking questions that look at the challenge from different angles.”

By the end of Idea-Links, Link has outlined a compelling guide to boosting creativity in the workplace. Because he believes the process of creativity can be learned and harnessed by almost anyone, Link isn’t stopping with corporate America. He also plans to institute the principles of Idea-Links into middle school classrooms in the near future.

“According to a 2010 Newsweek article, kids have become much less creative,” Link laments. “I find that alarming and I want to do something about it. Idea-links-based education can set the stage for how kids learn, allowing them to build more creative raw material in every subject area, not just art and music. I’m currently constructing the curriculum and plan to pilot it in two schools systems—one suburban and one inner city. If it’s successful, I’ll write a book geared toward teachers, administrators, and parents, then teach the curriculum to other teachers.”

Link has given all of us hope for a more creative future, and we’re looking forward to what comes next. To learn more about Jim Link, visit his website at TheNewCreativity.com and check out Idea-Links below!



Idea-Links: The New Creativity
by Jim Link
280 pages, $24.95 Hardcover or $13.99 Kindle
Beaver’s Pond Press (February 2012)
Buy it from TheNewCreativity.com or Amazon.com


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Jillian Bergsma is a writer and contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English. She welcomes any questions or comments on her articles at jbergsma (at) bookpublishing.com.