Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Where do our good ideas come from? We are often led to believe that many of the great ideas of the past have come as flashes of inspiration. We can picture  Archimedes leaping from his bath shouting ‘Eureka’ when he realised that objects displace water and Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree  watching apples fall and coming up with his ideas about gravitation.

Steven Johnson in his book, ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ suggests that breakthrough ideas rarely come from flashes of inspiration. Instead, he argues, good ideas come about through a collision of smaller hunches.

Ideas need time to incubate. Hunches need to collide, often it needs a hunch in one person’s mind to collide with another hunch in someone else’s mind. How can you create systems that allow those hunches to come together? So that they become something bigger than the sum of their parts.

 

He argues that in the past coffee houses were such places where people met, talked and shared ideas and ‘hunches. The same is not true of today. While we do have a growing coffee-house culture it is one that is often inhabited by people on their own, either reading, writing or surfing the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who does just this on a regular basis, there is nothing wrong with it! In fact the coffee shop is an ideal place for writers and thinkers, a place where they can relax and dream. But what do you then do with those dreams?

Recently I was lucky enough to sit with Steve from Footsqueek and a small group of primary Headteachers and listen to them share ideas, hunches about an app that could be used in school to collect evidence for school self-evaluation. It was fascinating watching different ideas collide into one another. In the end they came together and the QSI App was born.

We live in a much more highly connected world. Technology today allows us to share thoughts, ideas with anyone, anywhere in the world. This blog, for example, gives me the opportunity to potentially share my thoughts with the world. Tomorrow sees the launch of the new iPhone 5 and in October we see the new Amazon Kindle Fire being available in the UK. What will devices such as these do for the sharing of ideas?

If you want to create a space for innovation, you won’t get far by cloistering yourself away from the world and waiting for inspiration to hit you. Chance favours the connected mind.

How connected are you?

 

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About Mike

Now that I'm retired I have more time to devote to writing my blog and creating short stories.

3 responses to “Where Do Good Ideas Come From?”

  1. Steve Westgarth says :

    It’s interesting reading this and considering how connected we really are. I was discussing a similar idea in my own blog last week considering “how Social is Social Media”. http://westgarthsweb.co.uk/2012/09/02/how-social-is-social-media/

    • Mike says :

      I think we just need to start rethinking the term ‘Social’. There are many who would argue that people still need to physically meet one another to truly connect and communicate – I’m not so sure. I think that the connectivity that surrounds us is giving us a chance to be social but in a completely different way.

      • Steve Westgarth says :

        I don’t disagree with what you’re saying Mike but I would argue that there are different levels of social interaction. Can reading about what someones doing on their “wall” be considered a true social interaction? An Instant Messenger or Skype Conversation on the other hand is arguably a much more personal experience.

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