Columbia Researchers Develop New Tool to Uncover Better Ideas Faster

Columbia Creativity Algorithm

The power of algorithms, at times, seems ever reaching. So much in fact that two Columbia Business School professors have figured out how to formulate creativity out of one.

In a new research paper entitled Idea Generation, Creativity, and Prototypicality, CBS professors Olivier Toubia and Oded Netzer compared the development of this tool, which users can explore at, to the preparation of good food.

“Just like cooking, every idea that is generated can be considered a recipe with various ingredients. By modifying an idea’s ‘recipe’ and combining familiar words along with some novel words, one can create the perfect combination for a creative idea,” they said

Toubia and Netzer analyzed over 4,000 ideas and uncovered that a “well-balanced combination of familiarity and novelty” is what makes an idea creative. Their tool is ideal for “supporting idea generation, streamlining the screening process for new ideas, and helping businesses run more efficiently.

Professor Netzer explains, “Despite popular belief, creative ideas don’t just appear out of thin air; in many cases, they are the result of an arduous and lengthy process of idea generation. Our experiments proved that the online tool was successful not only in identifying promising ideas, but also in demonstrating the capability for improving ideas by proposing words – and combination of words—that may serve as ‘ingredients’ for ideas.”

You can read more about the study and the work of Toubia and Netser here.


About the Author

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer

Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as contributing writer at MetroMBA and contributing editor at Clear Admit, he is co-founder and lead producer of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.

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