Entrepreneurship books and courses offer many methods to be creative and get new ideas for a startup, business, or company. A relatively less known but widely applicable term is the adjacent possible. We have all used it at least once or twice to develop new ideas, even unconsciously.
What is the adjacent possible
The definitions of this term vary from source to source and are not always in simple terms. Unless “a shadow future hovering over the edges of the now” sounds simple to you. I am sure someone could explain that using less fancy words.
From an entrepreneurial perspective, the adjacent possible essentially refers to possible outcomes for a realistic idea. The idea can be about a new business model, plan, or even unrelated to entrepreneurship. The vital factor is that the idea is practical and innovative to the extent that all successful ideas can be.
In other words, for a thought to bring the label of an idea, it must have a specific element of freshness on it. “I want to create a mobile phone” is not an idea. “I want to create a phone that can fly as a drone” is possibly an idea. The adjacent possible for this idea can refer to specific outcomes about its success or failure.
Using the “adjacent possible” logic
Although an “idea” is by default considered innovative, there is also a different perspective on it. According to it, no idea can ever be a genuine idea. Of course, it is essential to define what “genuine” or “new” means here.
First of all, every idea is essentially a type of thought. The mind produces thoughts based on the input it has received in the past from the five senses. Accordingly, we cannot think of something new, but we can combine past information in ways no one has put together before to create something “new.”
That is also what the “adjacent possible” boils down to when you want to use it to improve and build upon your ideas. For example, you come up with two or three ideas with their own adjacent possible. Using each adjacent possible, you can combine the three ideas into one. Then examine the new grand adjacent possible to see if the idea is worth chasing.
From theory to practice
The theory says that the “adjacent possible” consists of the intersection of innovative ideas. Regardless, if we fail to use a theoretical framework in practice, it only remains a theory until someone uses it. And the same applies to the “adjacent possible” logic.
To experiment, you can start with an idea in one area that you know a lot about and in which you are genuinely interested. Then, you can merge that idea with something unrelated in another field. It can be a trend, a second idea, or anything else. Finally, see if the combination can produce an innovative and realistic grant idea.
That is an exercise that you can do recursively. After all, remember that when it comes to ideation, it is essential to first aim for quantity rather than quality. So, coming up with weird or “stupid” ideas is a promising sign. The more ideas you can produce, the more chances you will be impressed by the outcome.
- The adjacent possible essentially refers to possible outcomes for a realistic idea
- We cannot think of something new, but we can combine past input in ways that no one has put together before to create something “new”.
- To be creative and help come up with new ideas, you can merge different ideas, trends, or anything else and see if the outcome is worth chasing for