Ideas having sex!


Steven Johnson made a speech where he suggested that when having ideas people like to claim it was a Eureka moment or a flash of genius (refer to Sir Izaac Newton and his sore head or Darwin which his 1838 epiphany). Johnson argues that in reality these illuminating events are actually the culmination of a process that has taken much longer to unfold – years in fact.

Darwin was a classic case, in fact, because although he said that the theory of evolution came to him in a flash it didn’t really. Years later when his copious notebooks were examined it became clear that he had mapped out all the crucial aspects of his theory well before his “oh my goodness” moment.

Johnson then went on to say that the very best ideas are created when partial ideas from different people collide with each other – the phrase he uses is when ideas have sex with each other. If you think about it this is very true – bounce something around for long enough with a bunch of like-minded, and perhaps less than sober, side-kicks and you are bound to come out with something quite original.

But here’s the problem: time. Or lack of it to be exact. I have discussed this before but just for old times sake the modern commercial world eradicates thinking time. When I started out in the 1980’s there were loads of opportunities to think: travel time, waiting time, holidays, between meetings and so on. All these opportunities have been swallowed up with mobile phones, Wi-Fi, PDA’s, Blackberrys (or should that be Crackberrys – they really are addictive aren’t they?) and laptops.

Added to that have you noticed how we are all so busy, so focused and perhaps a little more stressed than we would like to admit? The likelihood of people meeting either in an office location or down the pub and then shooting the breeze for an hour or two just seems like an enormous indulgence. But have you also noticed that the number of great innovations are also falling away – is there a connection here I wonder?

So here’s a few suggestions to get the old creative muscle toned up: –

  1. Make yourself some thinking time, called Purple Time. Don’t use the phone, leave the laptop at home and turn the radio OFF.
  2. Decide on an area of your business that needs a bit of spit ‘n polish.
  3. Let your mind wander around this theme and encourage others to do the same.
  4. Schedule an opportunity to share your ideas preferably somewhere  you can get a relaxing glass of  Merlot.
  5. See what happens.

If nothing else it will be a few laughs and might take some of the stress away.

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Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

Posted in Creativity
2 comments on “Ideas having sex!
  1. Karen Quinton says:

    Reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell, in Blink, who argued a similar hypothesis – that intuition – that flash of understanding and knowledge that you sometimes get, but that you can’t actually put your finger on how you know, arises as a result of years of exposure to similar situations where you have actually built up such a body of expertise that you can tell in a blink whether something is genuine or not, or a person is trustworthy or not. And I guess that the years of practice equate to Darwin’s notebooks.

  2. Mike Ames says:

    Completely true. It is the exposure of new ideas that is the key. Books, Internet, TV, people anything really that provides a stimulus will help. Then you have to put all this stuff on gas mark 5 and stand back for a while.

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Mike Ames

Passionate about making business development a profession not just a job. Built and sold a £40m group in less than 9 years. Doing it all again and loving it!

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