Where do good ideas come from?

The concept of ideas, how they start and where they come from, fascinates me on a daily basis. What makes an idea good? What makes an idea bad? Why do some ideas develop and others do not? The question of “Where do good ideas comes from?” has been queried before. Many people try to build and replicate environments which encourage innovation and idea generation, all in the hope that new good ideas would be generated. As you can imagine, being the founder of 7billionideas, I have an opinion on this big question.
Recently I came across an article which estimated that only 2.5% of the UK population have innovative minds. What a ridiculous statistic and what absolute rubbish. Anyone who has ever had a shower, sat on a bus, gone for a run or simply laid in a bed, has come up with an idea. I have no doubt the students of SHS come up with ideas all the time while at school. This means everyone has the potential to be creative. Everyone is innovative. The problem has always been that people do not remember their ideas, or indeed act on them. To act on an idea takes courage, to have courage can take years to develop.
One of the most interesting books I have read is Steven Johnson’s ‘Where do good ideas come from?’ He has spent a huge part of his life looking to address this big question. Johnson concludes that good ideas come from a collection of hunches. Hunches being, ad hoc ideas which are logged in the brain and then a moment comes when they are all added together to create the idea. He sways away from the ‘lightbulb’ theory of world changing ideas coming to people on the fly, but argues strongly, with sense, with logic and with examples, that good ideas come together when hunches collide. The challenge people have is that they don’t have the tools or environment to build ideas and allow hunches ‘to persist and disperse and recombine’.
I believe in a simple ideas formula – If you share, note down and read enough ideas, good ideas will come together in your mind. Because of all the ideas you’ve shared, noted down and read, over the years the vital ingredient of having courage to act on your ideas will come to you. Courage doesn’t come in a sealed envelope from the post man. Courage comes from years of learning. Years of mistakes. Years of thinking. It’s never too late to give something a try. Johnson is quick to add that an idea is never finished too, it is always developing. You will never really know where an idea could take you, until you start the journey of developing it.
In an effort to conclude on his theories, the closing words Johnson uses in his book are words of advice on how to generate more good ideas. It summarises the brilliant 246 pages before it – ‘Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, keep your folders messy, make mistakes, take on multiple hobbies, visit coffee houses and other liquid networks (I like this one!), follow the links, let others build on your ideas, borrow, recycle, re-invent. Build a tangled bank’ – To those students of Surbiton High School who have ambitions of starting a business one day and becoming an entrepreneur, let 7billionideas become your ideas bank. Remember – No idea is silly, it just might be disliked. If you share, read and note down enough ideas, one day your hunches will collide and you really will begin to form more good ideas! Start today.
If you have 20 minutes, do check out Steven Johnson’s TED Speech on Youtube


Everyone is a Managing Director (MD)

Everyone is a MD - Maybe not of a business, but definitely yourself!!!

Everyone is a MD – Maybe not of a business, but definitely yourself!!!

One of the first things which needs to happen with Young Enterprise (after the teams are formed), is to have a student emerge as a Managing Director to begin to guide and lead their team to success. It’s a difficult job if you’ve never done it before. Your mind can never stop. Often the buck lies with you and it’s a privilege that some people never want, but others strive for every single day. Personally, I love it, but this exercise at Surbiton High school of selecting the leaders of the teams got me thinking – Surely everyone is actually a MD, maybe not of a business, but of themselves.
After my kick off presentation to the year 12s taking part in Young Enterprise this year, I was asked a brilliant question ‘If an MD is always giving out jobs – What does the MD actually do?’ What struck me most about this question is that it would probably hit most MD’s for six, often always in control and leading their companies, but a question like this quickly gets you scrambling for an answer as you begin to justify your grand title and responsibility. The truth is, an MD leads, they orchestrate, they think 6 steps ahead, they bring vision, energy and deep routed values to a company. They are the face of the company not only in the good times, but also in the bad times. They have a responsibility to their clients and employees to keep delivering success and value. They’re often crucial to the success or failure of a company.
It’s quite something to think that 1 person could have such a big effect on the movement, mood or success of a company, but why not? It is their leadership style and their DNA which will spread through their management team, their employees and onto their clients. This is why big companies spend a considerable amount of time searching for their next MD even when the current one is doing such a fantastic job. There are countless examples of companies taking a turn for the worst when an influential MD moves on and they find them extremely hard to replace. Can you imagine how difficult it was for Apple to replace the charismatic and inspirational Steve Jobs?
So if an MD is responsible for leading, delegating, planning, thinking things through, selling themselves and building relationships, isn’t this a responsibility that we all have to ourselves when we plan our careers or when we work on our ideas? In fact, isn’t everyone actually an MD of themselves? The answer is yes. You, yourself are a business, an enterprise, an idea. No idea will be successful if it stands still and the one thing I’ve learnt in my life is that standing still is boring.
With Young Enterprise you can only have 1 MD per team, but each student whether or not they take this role is actually an MD of themselves. A successful Young Enterprise team will have not 1 but 15 MD’s all taking responsibility for their role in the success of a team. They each have to conduct themselves as if they are an MD for their particular job role. They must lead it, be innovative, think outside of the box, delegate to others and also help other MD’s with their roles, not just be narrow minded to do their job and think that’s the end of it. I guess this is another important point that yes an MD can be competitive, but they also know how to collaborate, share lessons and learn from each other. I hope this can be the case for the MDs of SHS Young Enterprise in 2014/2015.
Personally, I think being an MD is the greatest job on the planet (apart from being a husband!!!), but it’s a job that I share with 7 billion other people all across the world. Each and every single one of us has a responsibility to be an MD of ourselves and help others be the MD of themselves. You, yourself are an idea. Build on that idea. Develop it, but most importantly own it. Be the MD you can be. For the students of Young Enterprise, remember each of you are MD’s and help each other out!