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The Question That Transforms Brilliant Ideas Into Shining Successes

Do you limit your creativity for lack of a simple question?

Do brilliant ideas strike and slip away because you don't ask "What if?" Brilliant ideas alone do not make shining successes.

It's what happens after the brilliant idea strikes that counts. And that starts with the question "What if?" A creative problem-solver recognizes that a brilliant idea is only the start of a shining success.

He or she asks "What if?" and starts transforming the brilliant idea into a sparkling success. "What if?" puts fixed ideas "on hold" and challenges conventional wisdom. And it's what separates creative problem-solvers from conventional thinkers.

Here's an interesting example that I've used to illustrate this idea regardless of my listeners. It makes the point even if it does make a mess!

In 1420, the dignitaries of Florence held a competition. They offered the enormous prize of 200 gold florins to the architect that could span the unfinished dome of the Florence Cathedral.

This was the greatest architectural challenge of the age. In 1296, the original builders left prayers that God would offer a solution. Apparently, they built the base while remaining clueless about finishing the dome!

Filippo Brunelleschi was the answer to their prayers.

He proposed the radical idea of a dome supported by a brick vaulting system that balanced the opposing forces and eliminated the customary central supports. The experts called him mad.

Brunelleschi said he could prove his design by standing an egg upright on a flat surface. "Impossible!" exclaimed the experts.

Finally, Brunelleschi cracked the bottom of the egg and set it down. Imagine the mess! However, the egg stood upright. A genius of the Renaissance demonstrated his idea and amazed the experts.

Was Brunelleschi that much smarter than everyone else? Most likely, he was not. Is it possible that other architects thought of the same idea?

I've always thought so. After all, the Romans had pioneered this same innovation at least 14 centuries earlier. And Brunelleschi had traveled to Rome to inspect the ruins of those ancient architects and engineers.

So his idea was not even original!