Strategic experimentation lays the groundwork for true innovation. 11

from book

How did Vincent van Gogh go from an art school dropout, whom classmates recalled as an ‘unremarkable’ painter, to the innovative artist who painted masterpieces like Sunflowers and Starry Night? Through sustained, relentless experimentation. Look back over van Gogh’s full oeuvre and you’ll see he didn’t hit on his distinctive aesthetic immediately. Instead, he tirelessly tried different styles and techniques until he mastered his craft. Then, he experimented even more, finally arriving at a unique style. Experimentation is ultralearning’s secret ingredient – the technique can take you from accomplished practitioner to true innovator. But experimentation can seem a little overwhelming at first. If you’re wondering where to begin, one technique you can use is to copy then create: emulate someone else’s work, then use this as a stepping-stone towards testing your own ideas.  Say you’re learning how to cook Korean food. Find a great recipe and follow it exactly, learning its processes and concepts as you go. Once you’ve got a handle on it, you can start to improvise with the process and flavor profile.  Another thing you can do to jumpstart your experimentation is to impose some constraints on it. This might seem counterintuitive, but limiting your creativity can actually help it blossom. That’s because working within strict limits can help you shake off your working habits and force you to try something new. For example, if you’re a budding artist or poet, you might try painting a picture using only shades of green or writing a verse without using the letter ‘e’: you might be surprised by how your creativity flourishes when it’s circumscribed. Finally, aim for the unexpected by hybridizing your materials, techniques or skills to find your hidden superpower. Combining two seemingly disparate elements can lead to great results. Before Scott Adams created the office comic strip Dilbert, he was an engineer with a passion for doodling. He wasn’t the best engineer or artist, but when he found a way to hybridize his unique skill set, he ended up creating one of the world’s best-known comic strips. Experimentation pays off!