I have lots of very poor ties, despite weeding them out periodically. But enough about my sartorial demons. That's not this week's topic.
Instead I'd like to talk about "weak ties", AKA loose connections. It's long been theorised that they're the key to unlocking meaningful new ideas. Let me explain ...
To arrive at a new business idea, you need to link two previously disconnected concepts, or at least link them in a new way.
But if they're too closely aligned already, someone will already have beat you to it. The new product will already be en route to your market.
Correspondingly, if the two concepts are too far apart then your seemingly wacky idea might actually be just wacky. Nothing more.
The trick then, is to strike the middle-ground: to juxtapose two or more seemingly dissimilar ideas, concepts or objects, and then juggle them around until a meaningful innovation begins to emerge.
I'm absolutely sold on this, having tried it several times to good effect.
That's why I was so interested to read about Semantic Clustering in the March 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review (yes, I'm still 2 months behind in my reading!) This technique analyses textual documents from various sources, and looks for connections based on the frequency of predefined keywords.
In the example given in HBR, texts from several thousand companies were run through the engine from software specialist "Quid", and the outcome was a stunning visualisation which was more than a little suggestive about where weak ties might occur.
You can read more about this at the following links. If you have time to experiment, I'd be delighted to hear your results.