Your best ideas come from remixing
I love a surprising remix. There’s something whimsical about seeing how a whole can creatively exceed the sum of its parts. How 1 + 1 > 2.
Back in the early 2000's, I was obsessed with Portishead's Live at Roseland NYC album. I was utterly drawn to the thick, syrupy beats, and heavy and haunting melodies that ushered in the genre of Trip Hop. It wasn't until years later that I learned that the beat that I loved so much in Glory Box, arguably their biggest single, was in fact a remix of Isaac Haye’s 1971 song “Ike’s Rap II.”
This one-minute video beautifully breaks down how Glory Box was born from Ike’s Rap II.
In the world of ideas, the concept of remixing is also highly valued and has been deeply studied. The term for remixing ideas is "knowledge synthesis."
Joel Chan, a professor and researcher specializing in the field of creative knowledge work, provides a definition for knowledge synthesis in his article Knowledge synthesis: A conceptual model and practical guide:
“the construction of a new point of view from a set of observations, that directly advances knowledge and/or opens up a path to advancing knowledge.”
In other words, knowledge synthesis is all about creating a new idea from the parts of other ideas. The QCE framework, which I’ve written about over the last few posts, seems to have been designed with remixing ideas at its core.*
As a refresher, the QCE framework is a system for parsing and classifying information you consume into either:
a question (Q) to explore
a claim (C) that provides a potential answer to one of your questions
a piece of evidence (E) that supports or opposes one of your claims
Over time, regularly processing the information you consume through the QCE framework will generate a library of claims, each bundled with one or more pieces of evidence, and each offering a partial answer to one or more of your enduring questions.
As these partial answers fill in, your mind naturally begins to combine them into new and unique chains of reasoning, sourced from a diverse set of sources that reflect your personal areas of interest.
It’s like snipping and cataloging choice segments of your favorite songs knowing that you’ll eventually play around with them to create a new tune. Even when hearing it for the first time, anyone who knows your musical tastes would be able to see your fingerprints all over it.
Anne-Laure Le Cunff said it best in her article Combinational creativity: the myth of originality, “originality is overrated. Instead, combinational creativity is the way to go.” If Glory box is any indication, I wholeheartedly agree.