I have to say, prior to my exploration into ‘great ideas’ which led to a prolonged web surfing spree, I had no idea that there were so many companies, organizations and individuals devoting their lives and, often, livelihoods, to all aspects of ‘ideas’. Wow! A friend and I, both of us ‘idea junkies’ and often bouncing new and sometimes bizarre ideas off of each other, have joked about how cool it would be if we could make a living at just coming up with ideas. Well, it appears that some people do!
I also have to say that the old saying, ‘bounce ideas off each other’, has taken on new meaning, a ring of truth and much more importance. Now that I have found out that, according to Steven Johnson, that is pretty much the way real ideas (as opposed to idealings) are born. At first, I thought it would also take on more seriousness, no longer so light-hearted and playful. Then I started to wonder, ‘Would that stop the birthing process cold? Would taking it seriously make it more effective or less effective?” So off I went on another search of ideas on how our minds work.
I found an interesting, although not very controlled, study on what the catalysts are for good ideas. In other words where are people when they get good ideas, what are they doing and how do they feel? The random informal online poll was conducted by Mitch Ditkoff and Tim Moore, The Ideas Champions, in late 2007. Here’s the report for your reading pleasure.
They came up with a list of 80 ‘best idea catalysts’ that people might find themselves in during a typical day. The eighty included things like places, mind states and activities. Some were solitary and others were carried out possibly with another person or in a group. Then they asked friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends to identify which ones matched their own experience of getting great ideas. And what did they find? Here are the top ten catalysts for great ideas:
- When you’re inspired
- Brainstorming with others
- When you’re immersed in a project
- When you’re happy
- Collaborating with a partner
- Analyzing a problem
- Commuting to and from work
- Reading books in your field
And the one at the very bottom of the list of the top 30? In the workplace! Wow, just where we want to be most creative—or at least our employer wants us to be most creative—and we bottom out.
This admittedly unscientific poll does support what I’ve already learned through Steven Johnson and Napoleon Hill. It appears that you need several things:
- A means of gathering idealings—the bits and pieces of ideas that can then grow into big ideas. That could include reading, talking with others, observing, and experience.
- Quiet reflective time to allow them to incubate. Time is the key word here, so you won’t necessarily perform best in a ‘git er dun’ atmosphere.
- A ‘wake up’ environment where the idealings can stir and play and collide and become ‘big ideas’. That could be, for example, in a lively debate or discussion, in a brainstorming session, or just on a great online forum.
- Quiet reflective time when you can recognize that there is now a full-grown idea waiting to be born. This is where daydreaming, meditation, journaling, and watching the world go by comes in.
- A generally positive or at least not-negative mindset. Here’s the answer to my original question–no! Don’t take it seriously.
Idea Champions, the owner of this study, is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. They help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference. (If that doesn’t sound like me, you’re right. It comes directly from their website.)
Where are you, usually, when you get great ideas? In the shower? In the car? Sitting in front of the fire?
Share your great idea (and where you were when you got it) in the Great Idea Challenge. Go here to find out more.