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Many good ideas start from old fashioned contemplation and are often inspired by nature, such as ‘Darwin’s Paradox’ - his scientific observations of coral reefs in the Keeling Islands in 1836.
What sparks a good idea?
Some good ideas are inspired by other good ideas.
Modern neonatal incubators were inspired by a chicken exhibit at the Paris Zoo in the late 1870’s.
In developing countries, where technology is scarce, neonatal incubators are built with automobile parts for easy and accessible repair.
Some good ideas are influenced by culture.
Sandals fashioned from used tires are a true testament to human ingenuity.
Some good ideas are recycled from old ones.
Scientists theorize that life on earth began as a series of molecules known as the ‘primordial soup’; which combined to form proteins, later forming the boundaries of cells - leading to the onset of human life on earth.
Some good ideas - such as life as we know it - are borne from biology.
Good ideas can develop through the ‘adjacent possible’.
Like a series of doors in a room, change and innovation can be ‘opened’ through the adjacent possible…ideas built upon on the present state of things. A biological example of this would be species, such as dinosaurs, evolving new bones to adapt to their environment, which ultimately led to wings and flight.
The ‘adjacent possible’ has its limitations.
Although creative potential is unleashed through the ‘adjacent possible’, there is a finite number of prospects available. Think of it as the number of recipes available using only cake mix ingredients.
Insight is often inspired by contemplation with nature
Liquid networks are fertile ground for innovation
Forward thinking people interacting within high-density populations
True insight takes time to cultivate
Hunches that collide with other hunches = good ideas
Good ideas share similar patterns.
Good ideas share similar developmental timelines.
Twentieth century innovation followed the 10/10 rule: a decade to build a new platform, and a decade for it to find a new audience. Think AM radio, VCR’s, and cell phones.
Today’s time frame may be shorter. Think Facebook and YouTube.
Good ideas can be influenced by environment.
Big cities foster more exploration of the adjacent possible than towns or villages. A great example of this is the Renaissance… a period of tremendous artistic and scientific growth stemming from the great minds collaborating in Venice, Florence and Genoa, the largest cities in Italy at the time.
A good idea develops in a network.
Like ingredients mixing together in a recipe, a ‘liquid network’ enables the ingredients to collide and make new connections, forming a sum greater than its parts.
City life enables a ‘liquid network’ - a space that allows great minds to interact, resulting in ‘information spillover’ – the liquidity of information in dense settlements. Think: cities and the Web.
Double-entry accounting, the cornerstone of all financial bookkeeping, was invented in the capital trade cities of Northern Italy in the 13 th century.
Networks can produce many good ideas.
Hunches can be quick and instinctual; or develop over a longer period of time.
Important innovation is likely to take place when hunches collide with other hunches.
Darwin’s theory of natural selection began with a hunch.
Good ideas can be intuitive.
Hunches, combined with serendiptous dreams can blossom into a good idea, even significant scientific discovery.
Serendipity can play a role in developing good ideas. German chemist Kekule von Stradonitz’ dreams about Greek mythology became a basis for a revolution in organic chemistry.
When developing a good idea, a steady persistent accumulation of error can translate into success. In other words, being incredibly wrong can lead to being overwhelmingly right!
Error can factor into developing good ideas.
Good ideas are built upon platforms.
Discoveries frequently come from existing areas (platforms) and turn out many mass-appeal ideas: Early microwave technology > current Global Positioning System, or GPS -
Good ideas come from many sources, have much in common and share similar traits and timelines. But the true key of invention lies back within Darwin’s Paradox: the ability to collaborate; as this is where ideas emerge, collide, and recombine…often to great success.
Good ideas surround us.
Where Good Ideas Come From
The Natural History of Innovation
by Steven Johnson
New York: Penguin Group
All images courtesy of Google Images
Good ideas are inspired by postgraduate reading material.