Did you know that you could think more like a genius? 

The simple fact is that geniuses like Einstein and Steve Jobs use their minds differently. And we can emulate the way they observe and interact with the world to great effect in our lives.

How? By introducing combinatory play into our lives. 

Here’s an example of combinatory play that has had a significant impact on human history.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the first successful printing press by combining a design inspired by wine presses with his own knowledge of metalwork.

Combining one thought, idea, or thing with another completely different object can result in creative and inventive ideas. 

That’s combinatory play in a nutshell. Several famed scientists and inventors use this type of thinking to create a newer understanding of our world and to build amazing new inventions. 

Albert Einstein attributed his inventiveness and creativity to combinatory play. 

“Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought.”

Albert Einstein

Even Steve Jobs stated that creativity was all about connecting dots together. He quoted:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

Apply combinatory play in your own life by simply trying to find connections between unrelated things. These ‘things’ can include subjects, images, ideas, and objects to create something entirely new.

Benefits of Combinatory Play in Real Life

There are many ways you can apply this concept to your own creative efforts. Here are a few examples:

  • Building stories in novels for characterizations, plots, and world-building
  • Finding new and inventive product ideas for customers
  • Creating unique content for your blog or newsletter
  • In drawing and painting new concepts
  • Team building and brainstorming activities for your team

There are virtually limitless possibilities where you can apply combinatory play. It gives you a way to stand out and also feel more fulfilled since you’re using make the most of your abilities.

How to Apply Combinatory Play

Here are a few practical ways to make combinatory play work for you. 

Build Your Knowledge 

Since combinatory play is about creating something new from different and unrelated concepts, you need to have a strong knowledge base. 

The commonly accepted viewpoint is that specialization is the key to expertise and success. However, this isn’t always true. You may actually develop tunnel vision from too much focus on a single idea. 

It’s vital to learn about diverse topics and subjects as much as possible. Pick up books, online courses, and podcasts on subjects ranging from the history of chocolate to sports, from coding to baking and anything else you can think of.

Being knowledgeable about different topics will help you connect two unrelated ideas in different ways. You’ll also learn new ways of thinking that will help you approach problem-solving more effectively. 

Connect the Dots

The way to carry out combinatory play is to look for ways to connect disparate concepts. This requires mental effort as well as trial and error. A powerful tip is to not withhold any ideas that sound ‘silly’ or unrealistic. 

Brainstorming: This is a common team-building activity where you and other team members can throw out any idea that comes to your mind. As a leader, you can feature different items and ask your team to build a connection between these objects

Doodling: Drawing is a powerful way to express your ideas. And using your hand to visualize concepts on paper will allow you to engage more of your mind. All you need to do is start doodling anything that comes to mind when thinking about different items or objects.  

Freewriting: Another effective way to practically connect dots between two concepts is to use freewriting. Here you write about a set of unrelated concepts for a fixed period of time. What’s different is that you never edit or stop while you write. In this way, your brain is allowed to simply express itself. After a while, it runs out of ‘junk’ thoughts and is forced to come up with truly new content. 

Create Analogies

Analogies have been used to express complex scientific concepts and to even create and test hypotheses. There are several scientists who use analogies as a way to explore concepts and to come to new knowledge with the help of similes and metaphors. 

When learning a new concept or exploring a difficult subject, it’s helpful to compare what you’re learning to something familiar. For example, you can compare how DNA works to an orchestra. Just as the same set of instruments can play different songs, your gene expressions can change to perform different functions. 

Use similes and metaphors as a way to make sense of new and difficult concepts. Doing so will help you make sense of concepts that are difficult to understand and to discover new knowledge.

Back to You

Combinatory play or connecting two disparate ideas can be found in the thinking processes of many smart people. 

How awesome is it that we can also learn to think in a creative way!

We’ve looked at what combinatory play is and how to apply it in life. Now it’s time for you to give it a go!