First, we need start from ourselves, not from outsiders
The design of solutions moves from the outside-in. For example, user-centered innovation advise to start by going out and observing how users use existing products; open innovation advises to engage outsiders to propose novel ideas; and even when it comes to our own contribution, we are advised to “think outside of the box.”
The design of a meaningful direction instead works the other way around: from the outside-in. We need to start from ourselves, from what we find meaningful. Rather than jumping outside of the box, we change the box from the inside.
Why? Because no one can go in a direction that is not meaningful for herself. Solutions can be borrowed from the outside, since they enable us to achieve a target, but the target, the direction, has to come from ourselves.
Second, we need criticism, not ideation
Creative problem solving is built on the art of ideation. Innovation of directions instead requires the art of criticism. Why?
Because when we propose a new direction, we start from us, from our inkling of a hypothesis. Our initial proposal is blurred, vague. Just a sense of direction, whose value and implications are unclear. Not only to others; even more to ourselves. Criticism enables us to dig deeper, confront our insights with the insights of others, and find a new, more powerful purpose that lies underneath. It also prevents us to get stuck in old directions and helps us to get rid of a past that might not be meaningful anymore.
In an overcrowded world the value of others is not to provide more ideas, but to provide developmental feedback.