How many times have you said to yourself that one day you would have that “Eureka” moment and come up with a great, unheard-of idea?
Ideas do not merely happen in isolation.
Then, where can you find them?
In the following summary of Stephen Johnson’s TED Talk: “Where Good Ideas Come From”, we show you the way.
About Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson is an author, speaker, and the founder of the online magazine FEED.
“Where Good Ideas Come From Summary”
Do you know why the English coffeehouse was essential to the Enlightenment?
Well, first because the rise of the coffeehouse had a significant influence in creating popular drinking habits.
Before it existed, everyone drunk alcohol as a daylong refreshment. In other words, people were practically drunk all the time.
The meaning of the coffeehouse was immense. With its appearance, it helped the world in many ways.
People moved from drinking alcohol, which is a primary depressant, to drinking stimulating teas and coffees. The new drinking habits brought considerable improvements in the public’s critical thinking skills. People started thinking more and engaged themselves in philosophical movements.
Second, “the architecture of the space” affected people as well.
In other words, the coffeehouses allowed people with different backgrounds to gather in one place, and share their ideas, change them, merge them, and develop new ones.
This meant that different innovations became possible.
Different environments that allow and enable innovation, regardless of whether they are virtual, physical or biological, share similar patterns.
However, to understand these patterns, you need to clear your head from traditional images and concepts that present innovation and creation as a lightbulb flash. What we mean to say is that the conventional ways of thinking see discovery as a dramatic appearance of an entirely new, breakthrough idea.
However, this is a wrong way of reasoning.
You must have heard so many times before that everything that could be thought of was already thought of. Indeed there are no entirely new ideas, but there are limitless possibilities of reconnecting old ideas in a new way.
Even on the most basic level, in the human brain, a new idea consists of a new configuration of existing neurons.
The problem is that most people are not capable of pinpointing the exact origin of their ideas. Most of the time they believe that the ideas and concepts appear when they are alone.
Again, if you think the same, you are wrong.
Video evidence collected from a global study suggests the complete opposite.
Researchers concluded that most of the fresh ideas and discoveries happen at the conference table, where colleagues can share their thoughts, their work, their mistakes, and their challenges.
So, the next time you have to push yourself and think of something fresh and new, go out and seek loud places like the early coffee houses we already mentioned. We like to call these places “liquid network.”
Another misconception that people have is that ideas are developed in a single burst of inspiration.
However, the opposite is true. Many ideas incubate for an extended period of time, they linger in the back of one’s mind for months, years, even decades, and present themselves as exciting but never resolved questions.
Take Charles Darwin for example. When he talked about his discovery of natural selection, he described it as a “Eureka” moment. However, if you look at his notebooks, you will notice that they tell a very different story.
His annotations in it show that he had thought about his idea for many months, he has worked on it a long time, only the details did not connect to a larger picture in his mind yet.
Creating an environment that inspires innovation means that you need to create space and time for people to develop their hunches. Furthermore, they need to have enough opportunities for interaction.
Key Lessons from “Where Good Ideas Come From”:
1. Fresh Ideas are Old Ideas Redeveloped in a New Way
2. Isolation is Not Your Friend
3. A Need for a Shift of Priorities
Fresh Ideas are Old Ideas Redeveloped in a New Way
Breakthroughs are a creative reconnection and redevelopment of already existing concepts.
Isolation is Not Your Friend
Isolating yourself or finding your silent place will not bring you that “great idea.” On the contrary, brainstorming in a group is what creates the most innovative results.
A Need for a Shift of Priorities
Nowadays, a vast number of companies concentrate on secrecy and try every way they can to protect their intellectual property. However, a focus on communication, networking and sharing ideas would certainly create more breakthroughs in the world.
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Our Critical Review
Johnson talks about ideas and where you could find them in a simple and entertaining lecture. He uses the crowded English coffeehouses and the pages of Charles Darwin’s journals as the materials to back his theory.
We recommend this TED talk for anyone who is interested in innovation and creativity and the way the human mind works.