Good Ideas Need a Little Help From Their Friends

>> Thursday, September 30, 2010

I recently came across this UPS-guy-on-steroids promotional video for a new book by Steven Johnson titled “Where Good Ideas Come From.” Aside from the super engaging way it tells the story, I think the basic premise is fascinating and familiar.

Mr. Johnson’s theory is that big ideas don’t leap from the minds of solitary geniuses. They actually start as hunches that evolve slowly, over time, as a result of colliding with the hunches of other people who are thinking about the same area. As examples, he talks about how the coffee houses during the Age of Enlightenment served as an environment for colliding ideas, which is why we had such a rich explosion of creativity during that period.

The natural leap to today – and the one he makes – is that the proliferation of social technologies is opening the door for another Enlightenment-type explosion of creativity. We are connected with more people more regularly than anyone thought possible, which should set the stage for some fast and furious colliding of hunches.

The great thing about collaboration is that any of us in any setting working on any problem can do it. We here at Wellness have been moving more and more towards collaborative systems for doing our work. Different functional groups, working together hand-in-hand with our customers, is the ideal environment for some great colliding to generate better ideas than any one of us could have thought up on our own.

One important caveat: this does not mean that good ideas come out of group sessions. We find that often these ideas can occur in solitary settings: in the shower, walking the dog, nodding off to sleep. Although these ideas often emerge when we’re alone, if you trace the genealogy of the idea, you will find the genetic material of many other peoples’ ideas built in.

Hope this finds you well,

Jacob Braude


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