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Everyone is interested in this question as we all want to be more creative and be more innovative both individually and within our organisations etc.
The speaker looks at this problem from an environmental perspective, what are the spaces that have historically led to great ideas? He has found that there are some recurring patterns which are crucial in allowing good ideas to develop.
Great ideas hardly ever come in a moment of inspiration, most take a long time to evolve. Sometimes ideas take years to mature before becoming accessible or useful to you. This is because good ideas normally come from the collision between smaller hunches. Therefore we see many cases in history of someone who has half an idea, for example with the invention of the Internet. Tim Berners Lee worked on it for 10 years, when he started he didn’t have a full vision of what he was going to invent. He started working on one project to help him organise his own data, scrapped that after a couple of years and made many subsequent attempts which he scrapped. Ideas take time to mature.
Ideas need to collide with other hunches, sometimes what turns a hunch into a breakthrough is another hunch in someone else’s mind and we must work out how to create systems which allow those hunches to come together and create something bigger.
That’s why coffee houses and bars were such good sources of ideas historically, they created spaces where ideas could mingle, swap and create new forms. If we approach things from this perspective, it sheds light on the recent debate about what the internet does to our brains. Will it lead to less sophisticated thoughts as we move away from the slower, contemplative state of reading?
We should remember that the great driver of scientific innovation has been the historic increase in connectivity, the ability to exchange ideas with others, borrow other people’s ideas and combine them with ours and turn them into something new. It’s true we are more distracted but what has happened is that we now have so many new ways to connect to other people with that missing piece that will complete our idea or to stumble by chance on some new information we can use to improve our own ideas. That’s the real lesson of where ideas come from, that chance favours the connected mind.
Summary of the video done by Thomas Coleman