Idea Mutation

This post originally appeared February 8, 2011 on

DNA renderingphoto © 2007 ynse | more info (via: Wylio)
If you’ve been reading this blog for the last year, you probably realize by now that I am not a scientist (nor do I play one on TV). There are, however, several concepts in science which fascinate me. One of those happens to be mutation, the process by changes are introduced into the genetic sequence.

Mutations can happen in many different ways, either by DNA being impacted by external forces or by internal cellular processes. Be it by virus, radiation, transcription errors or self-designed changes, mutations can be helpful or harmful to the cells.

No, this hasn’t become a science blog (and a really rudimentary one at that), but it occurred to me earlier today that ideas also mutate in similar ways to genetic material and do so for similar reasons.

Getting to Why

External forces, such as viruses and radiation, push on genes to make them mutate. External forces like time and budget constraints force ideas to change. At some point in our careers, we’ve either faced (or will face) a project manager who tells us the budget for the project just got cut in half due to shifting priorities. At this point we find ourselves in an odd situation. No one has yet agreed to allowing us to finish later or to decrease scope, so we get creative… we force our ideas to change in order to fit with our new project reality.

Internal forces also cause our ideas to change. If you’re like me, you’ve started out on some project with a picture in your mind as to what the ideal solution will look like when the project is done. As time passes and you learn more about the forces within and outside your sphere of influence, your idea of the end point morphs. You realize that while others might not recognize that the ideal solution needs to change, you recognize it and know that for the project to reach its fully potential, ideas will need to change.

Ways to Make a Mutation

Now that you know that your ideas must change, you need to figure out how to make them change in the right ways. Here are some thoughts, based on genetic mutation methods, that might help your ideas to change.

First, hit it with some radiation. Radiation is essentially the release of unstable energy. Take your idea and add something to it that makes it unstable, then try to figure out what you could add or take away that would once again make it unstable.

Next, infect it with a virus. Take a bad idea and attach it to your idea and see what the outcome looks like. Its possible that your addition will kill/destroy your idea, but then again, the addition might be just the one thing it needs to survive.

Third, swap around some of the steps in the process (transposons). If your process doesn’t seem to fit with what you think would make an ideal solution, maybe your ideals solution is the problem. Take out sections, even ones that would seem like they must remain in place, and swap them or insert them into a different part of the process.

What are other ways you use to mutate your ideas? Let us know in the comments.