Where do good ideas come from?

31 Oct

If any person could answer this question, regardless of their motives, they would be a rich , rich person. Some ideas are epiphanies that hit you when you least expect it, or are part of a long drawn out process filled with frustration, caffeine, and more frustration. What if you could pin point the environment that you need to contrive pure genius. All I need is my yellow shirt and some Beatles playing and everything I write will be pure gold…if only that were the case. I muddle thoughts in my head. I take breaks, I go back to what I was thinking about. I stress myself out to the point when I have to talk to someone else. It is indeed a process, and a different one for every person faced with a task at hand.

-Steven Johnson illustration of creating a good idea

I frequently read the Leo Burnett Blog because they discuss their work, but also talk about the process of creating the work. I stumbled upon a TED (Technology, entertainment, and design…check out the website, some very cool stuff ) video of Steven Johnson. Johnson is the author of Where Good Ideas Come From and Everything Bad is Good for You among four other books.

Johnson discusses how ideas are often considered eureka moments, that ideas are a single thing. What he argues is that an idea is a new network that has never fully completed. The idea is not a singular unit, but a connection between preexisting thoughts. Johnson thinks this network is brought through an environment internally, which can be mimicked externally to influence more ideas.

This environment for innovation happens when ideas are put together. This is what he refers to as the ‘liquid network’ , where people from different backgrounds interact and bounce ideas off each other.

He also believes that people underestimate hoe long it takes for an idea to mature. He calls this a slow hunch, which is that ideas linger in the back of people’s minds for weeks, months, even years. He says that ideas in this incubation stage need to collide with other people’s ideas that are in this same process of development.

He mentions Darwin coming up with natural selection. Darwin describes the concept as an epiphany, but when his notes and research were examined, he had the idea for years before. The research and information was all there, the net just had not been completed

What I ask myself after watching Steven speak is how to take this environment for ideas and implement this into my work? COLLABORATE. Take time alone to contrive ideas in the ‘slow hunch’ state, while others do the same, then go together and bounce ideas off each other. It may not happen that day, and that is okay, but it is building a web of thoughts.



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