ALIEN Thinking

What’s it about?

Alien Thinking (2021) is a straightforward method for coming up with brilliant ideas. Rather than waiting for inspiration, it outlines five critical abilities that everyone can invent on the fly.

About the author:

At the Institute of Management Development in Switzerland, Professors of innovation and strategy are Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael WadeThey’ve worked with scores of companies, start-ups, and government agencies, assisting them in generating and implementing the ideas they need to succeed.


What am I getting out of it? Make it a habit to come up with outstanding ideas.

It’s enjoyable to come up with good ideas. There’s nothing quite like the sensation you get when inspiration hits, and everything in your head seems to fit into place perfectly. Wouldn’t it be nice if it happened more often?

That’s where these blinks come into play. They lay up a five-step approach to help you generate excellent ideas whenever you want. These blinks reveal the thought types that underlie all creative leaps by combining enlightening business examples with practical and easy-to-follow guidance.

You may make inspiration a habit by adding them to your mental repertory.


Take a new look at the situation.

India had an issue that wasn’t going away, and it wasn’t going to be easy to solve: in the end, it all came down to statistics.

The country was relying on groundwater far more than it could afford. But, more importantly, where did the water go? What was it used for, exactly? That was Narayana Peesapaty’s inquiry to himself.

As it turned out, the answer was straightforward. Indian farmers paid almost nothing for energy, so they had no incentive to turn off their water pumps. More water meant higher rice yields, and water was cheap, so it didn’t make sense to strive to be ineffective.

So, what can be done to address the groundwater scarcity? How could Peesapaty fix this long-standing issue?

Peesapaty took a different approach to the problem. He noticed that one of the main reasons farmers used so much water was to boost their rice harvests.

Anyone but Peesapaty would have urged the government to promote less labor-intensive crops like millet. He understood that the market was to blame for the problem, and he was determined to get the market to solve it.

Peesapaty discovered a means to make millet into cutlery that could be eaten at the end of a meal after nine years; rather than simply encouraging farmers to plant millet instead of rice, he actively encouraged farmers to cultivate millet by developing a marketable new product.

Peesapaty’s approach was notable for the novelty of his vision. So, how can the rest of us, whose perceptions have been dulled by weekly meetings and everyday routines, build this ability to pay new attention to old problems?

There are a few options available. Approaching the subject from many perspectives is one of the essential things we can do. After all, it was only via traveling over India and meeting farmers that Peesapaty could completely comprehend India’s water and rice problems.

It can involve paying attention to your most innovative and “extreme” consumers in an established company rather than a start-up. IKEA’s designers frequently participate in furniture hackathons, inspired by their innovative and passionate consumers, to build the best new products out of existing parts.

The knowledge they get from these workshops is a big part of why people keep coming back to IKEA’s offers season after season.


When you take a step back from a situation, you might approach it differently.

Dr. Mathias Döpfner, CEO of German media group Axel Springer, announced a daring new aim for his company in 2006: he expected digital revenue to account for over half of the company’s entire sales within a decade.

It appeared far-fetched at the time, as internet sales accounted for only a small portion of Axel Springer’s total revenue. Many people were suspicious of Döpfner’s plans, and enthusiasm was low.

Six years later, in 2012, senior management was still clinging to its old ways of Thinking. So, what could be done? What could Döpfner do to persuade executives and managers to see things his way?

Döpfner came up with an unconventional answer. He could have summoned senior management for a meeting. He could have jeopardized their salaries or replaced them with new supervisors. Döpfner, on the other hand, took a completely different approach. He took a vacation to California with his senior executives.

Döpfner arranged for his hand-picked team to rub shoulders with some of Silicon Valley’s movers and shakers in the hopes of inspiring the Axel Springer team with their energy and adaptability. His wager was successful.

The trip was such a success that it became a regular outing for its top executives. Furthermore, in an attempt to shake up employees’ Thinking, Döpfner organized a large, rough-around-the-edges business trip to San Francisco.

This technique was successful, even though it sounded strange. Digital income accounted for 60% of Axel Springer’s revenues and earnings within ten years.

So, what’s the bottom line here? We can’t all fly to California every time we have a brilliant idea, after all. We may, however, change our regular frames of reference and foster invention by taking well-timed and well-designed pauses.

It doesn’t have to be anything more than properly using the reflective moments that your schedule already provides. On your morning journey, do you have 30 minutes of peaceful time? Use it to think about something you wouldn’t ordinarily think about in that situation — you could be surprised by the insights that emerge.


Unleash your creativity by rediscovering the power of your imagination.

We all had a lot of creativity when we were kids. We used to spend hours running around our backyards pretending to be astronauts, firefighters, mothers and fathers, doctors and nurses.

But then something unexpected happened. Throughout our education, rote memorization took precedence over producing new ideas or using our imaginations, and our ability to imagine things deteriorated with time.

We concluded that creativity was juvenile and unimportant, and we moved on to other pursuits. We’re now paying the price.

At least, that was the situation for Stora Enso, the Scandinavian paper manufacturer, in 2011. The print had taken a hit due to the rise of online media, and the corporation was struggling to adjust to the new situation. They needed to develop some innovative and intriguing business ideas, but they were lost.

According to Jouko Karvinen, the CEO at the time, the company’s Thinking has become stale. They needed new ideas and methods of imagining the future since the boardroom was too homogeneous and old-fashioned. In a nutshell, they required creativity.

So, what are their options? Karvinen contacted the authors, and the two of them concluded that the company’s senior management had exhausted its creative potential. They needed to hire new individuals to expand their team that needed the Medici Effect.

When varied and creative brains are brought together, the Medici Effect is invented by novelist and entrepreneur Frans Johansson to describe how ideas multiply. In Renaissance Italy, the Medicis were a wealthy and intellectual noble family, and their patronage of the arts and sciences was a major element in the period’s creative output. Something similar can develop in organizations under the correct circumstances.

Stora Enso created the Pathfinder program to address this issue. They assembled a startlingly varied team, selecting people from all levels of the firm’s experience, and sent them on a six-week trip to China, India, Latin America, and the United States.

They were instructed to return with nothing less than Powerpoint presentations than a revolution. And somehow, they succeeded. 

The Pathfinder team urged business executives to focus more on sustainability as a critical development sector, and their foresight was rewarded. Stora Enso is now largely a global renewable materials corporation rather than a paper manufacturer.

This old-fashioned institution was given a fresh lease on life by bringing together varied, invigorated minds.


Experimentation is essential for coming up with novel ideas.

If you’ve ever traveled across France by train, chances are it was with SNCF. They may be the colossal corporation in charge of the country’s trains, but that doesn’t mean they can relax. SNCF, on the other hand, was in a difficult situation in 2014.

In a nutshell, the rail journeys available to travelers were no longer competitive. The railway firm, which was seen as costly and outdated, lost many clients to low-cost airlines, intercity buses, and even carpooling. France’s railways appeared to be on the decline.

At this time, the writers were contacted by SNCF. They knew something had to change, but they didn’t know where to start. How could they go about reversing their losses?

The most serious issue confronting SNCF was that it had grown sluggish and bloated, unable to respond quickly enough to market challenges and possibilities. It has also lost the desire to attempt new things and the ability to do so. It had simply ceased to experiment.

To address this, the authors convened 650 of the company’s top executives for a two-day event during which they spent the whole time advocating new, experimental ideas. The executives had six months to develop and improve their concepts into proposals after receiving input from their colleagues.

The major goal of this gathering was not to develop a slew of fresh ideas. Fostering a spirit of experimentation in a corporation that sorely needed it was far more valuable. And it was successful.

TGV Max, a new service inspired by cell phone providers’ unlimited-access plans, was one of the innovative ideas. Young people might utilize unrestricted off-peak high-speed train travel for a monthly cost of €79.

So, what’s the takeaway? To try new things. Come up with as many ideas and hypothetical plans as you can and consider them all – but be prepared to dismiss any ideas that don’t stack up after consulting customers, experts, and basic facts.


Innovative ideas need to be safeguarded at all times.

It’s tempting to believe that all it takes to succeed is a good concept. You sit down with a pen and paper, do some brainstorming, have a eureka moment, and voila! You’re an overnight success!

Unfortunately, things don’t always work out that way in the real world.

Ideas, you know, are delicate creatures, often as delicate as they are audacious. You can’t just put an idea out into the world unprotected – that is, without the benefit of robust promotion or insulation from criticism – and expect it to survive. It would assist if you were confident in your ability to be taken seriously.

When Bracken Darrell took over as CEO of Logitech, he was well aware of the obstacles that creative ideas face in established firms, and he made it his mission to remove those obstacles entirely.

One of these roadblocks he dubbed “the pull of organizational gravity.” Put another way, the force within a corporation that prevents new ideas from taking off — the status quo’s power.

Darrell divided it into 27 smaller business divisions fashioned after start-ups to break free from the company’s suffocating gravity. Ideas may struggle to find a hearing in a huge, faceless company, but the start-up model encourages creativity, invention, and initiative-taking.

Furthermore, Darrell went out of his way to listen to the views of disruptors and innovators. Employees’ perceptions that their recommendations will be ignored are often the source of organizational gravity. On the other hand, Darrell has created an environment at Logitech where employees know their new ideas will be heard. Logitech has opened the floodgates to innovation rather than creating obstacles.

If you aren’t fortunate enough to work in such a welcoming environment, you can still do activities to improve your proposals’ chances of being accepted. One strategy is to emphasize the elements connecting your concept to its history, current goals, and culture.

That way, you can “camouflage” a radical idea as something firmly rooted in the firm’s identity.


Combine the ALIEN strategies to develop brilliant thoughts at any time.

So far, we’ve discussed a few methods for developing and implementing innovative ideas, and when you combine them, you get the ALIEN method.

What is the significance of the name ALIEN? It is, after all, an acronym. A stands for attentiveness, or the ability to observe the world with new eyes; L stands for levitation, or the ability to remove yourself from a situation and approach it from a different angle. I advocate for imagination, imagining future possibilities based on current circumstances.

The E represents experimentation, and the N stands for navigation — in other words, assisting your treasured ideas in navigating an often indifferent environment.

These strategies have been observed in isolation, but do they work together?

The ALIEN framework isn’t magical, but it provides a toolkit for new ideas in various situations.

True, not all of your fresh ideas will change the world. However, if you practice using the techniques we’ve discussed, you’ll discover that you get more ideas over time – and they’ll be of greater quality.

It’s important to remember that every aspect of the ALIEN approach is intended to assist you in transcending preconceptions and limited Thinking. The purpose isn’t to teach you how to tap into some heavenly realm where brilliant ideas are ripe for the taking; instead, it’s to help you rediscover skills you already have but have abandoned in favor of easier, more commonplace methods of Thinking.

When you try to change your regular thinking habits, you may encounter some internal resistance. You might even experience some anxiety. That’s understandable: if you’re anxious about failing, you might use that energy to discover weaknesses in your plan.

The goal is to use your fear to your advantage. Allow it to assist you in honing your plans rather than preventing you from executing your ideas. Make any nervousness or apprehension a tool rather than a hindrance.

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