Yesterday’s blog discussed the idea that good ideas are the product of multiple bits and pieces of good ideas, idealings, that have been through a long, slow incubation period culminating in a period characterized by bouncing off of each other, colliding, uniting and generally propagating into full-blown GREAT IDEAS. Sounds like a typical Friday night to me.
But here’s another view of how good ideas are generated, courtesy of Napoleon Hill of Think and Grow Rich fame. Let me start by telling the story of Elmer R. Gates, a scientist and professional thinker profiled in Hill’s bestseller.
Elmer R. Gates had a special soundproof and lightproof room constructed in his lab. In this small room was a small table with a pad of paper and a pen. In front of the table, on the wall, was a pushbutton control for the lights. When he was faced with a problem to be solved, he would enter his ‘personal communication room’, turn off the light and sit there in the pitch black silence until he had some ideas. He called this ‘sitting for ideas’ and here’s how it worked. He would,
“concentrate on the known factors of the invention on which he was working, remaining in that position until ideas began to ‘flash’ into his mind in connection with the unknown factors of his invention.”
As ideas flowed into his mind, he would write frantically until the flow ended. Now, that’s an example of an ‘idea person’. In fact, he was such a prolific ‘ideal person’ that he had more than 200 patents to his name and he made his living ‘sitting for ideas’ for for an hourly wage paid by corporations and individuals.
Napoleon Hill suggested that there were two types of imagination: SYNTHETIC imagination and CREATIVE imagination. Synthetic imagination works with existing ideas, knowledge and experience and rearranges them into new combinations. On the other hand, creative imagination connects with ‘Infinite Intelligence’ and the thought vibrations from the minds of others (hmmm not so different from Steven Johnson’s approach after all) to receive hunches and inspirations. The creative imagination is responsible for the creation of anything entirely new, not just a rehash or recombination of other ideas.
Hmmm, perhaps this would be a good time to remember the words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “…there is nothing new under the sun.”
Back to Napoleon Hill…according to Hill, in order to access our creative imagination, by tapping into the vibrations from other minds, including the ‘infinite intelligence’, we have to be vibrating at an extremely high level. How to achieve that vibrational level, you ask? With the use of ten mind stimulants. Here they are, in order, as laid out by Napoleon Hill:
- the desire for sex
- a burning desire for fame, power, money
- a MasterMind
- shared suffering
- narcotics and alcohol.
Sounds like a typical Friday night to me. Perhaps Steven Johnson and Napoleon Hill are not so far apart on their theories about where great ideas come from, after all. A little quiet time following by a few drinks and/or narcotics, some music, some bouncing off the walls and each other, followed by shared suffering – and voila – GREAT IDEAS!
Party on! And then come back and share the great ideas you’ve generated in the Great Idea Challenge. Check it out here!