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


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