Where do ideas come from?

Where do ideas come from? Who owns them? Are anyone’s ideas really unique? Can we catalyze for great ideas? Can we really create good new ones?

At first glance, what do you think?
Do you get intimidated by the names of the great inventors and innovators – Galileo; Gauss; Edison; Fermi; Pythagoras; Ooog (credited with the wheel) – and dispirited by the notion that you are expected to be as prolifically creative as they were?

Malcolm Gladwell, who gave us “The Tipping Point” and most recently “Blink,” has addressed this issue with his usual elegance and simplicity.

While some now attack “The Tipping Point” http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/ and believe that in our highly leveraged, digital, social age it is passé – I’d actually argue that in a world where we declare victory because a thousand people have passed along some insipid video without an appreciable change in anyone’s behavior – not even as art if you accept catharsis as measure of art’s effect – “The Tipping Point,” which Gladwell based on social phenomena, should be more of a measure than ever before.

“Blink,” as you may recall, is about those decisions and judgments we make in split microseconds – those gut feelings that we go with or ignore, and then kick ourselves in the butt when we realize we over-thought the issue.

I am a huge proponent of Blink thinking http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html and believe, obviously, that the more data points we have, and the more information we can assimilate, the better our Blink moments will be.

Enough digression – or maybe it’s not digressive and is really foundation for what Gladwell writes as he prepares his new book – “good ideas are out there for anyone with the wit and the will to find them.”

In his most recent The New Yorker article http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/05/12/080512fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all Gladwell writes, “Who says big ideas are so rare?” and further that “the history of science is full of ideas that several people had at the same time.”

He calls it “In the Air.”

To be fair, art is not included – Beethoven is Beethoven, and the Beatles are the Beatles, not to mention Picasso, etc.

But as far as we are concerned, good ideas are out there…

In thinking on this, I came across one of my favorite sources of innovation:

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
~Dr. Seuss

And there you have it – complicated questions, simple solutions, gut feeling and the need for the moment of critical mass…

So while we might not give Amadeus a competitive fright – old Tom Edison had better watch out.

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