Posts Tagged ‘Great ideas’

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part II)

April 10, 2009


Looking Upwards

Looking Upwards

“For everyone of us that succeeds, it’s because there’s somebody there to show you the way out” Oprah Winfrey

There are many ways that people show others the way, both directly and indirectly. And, many people have allowed others to stand on their shoulders, sometimes even without knowing, simply by teaching others what they know or by documenting their observations, thoughts, insights and discoveries for others to read.

A quick way for us to stand on the shoulders of giants is to examine what’s been done before by reading about and listening to the experiences and lives of those we value and respect. You never know what bright idea you could come across, or what problem could be solved now because the time is right and the technology now exists.

A review of several books on creativity, inventions, discoveries and great thinkers and scientists who have changed the world, books such as Discover Your Genius, Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas, The Art of Thought, The Art of Thinking, The 100 Greatest Inventions of All Time, 100 Discoveries: The Greatest Breakthroughs in History, suggest that great thinkers have certain traits in common.

Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Gutenberg, Copernicus, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie and Alexander Fleming, a few of the great thinkers who made discoveries, and/or created products that influenced/changed the world, had the unique knack to do many of the following:

  • Reflect
  • Open to experiment
  • Keep record of research
  • Steely determination: impossible was not an answer
  • Open minded
  • Childlike sense of play
  • Curious
  • Voracious reader
  • Read/study broadly
  • Observe, detect and collect facts
  • Think independently
  • Take breaks to reenergize
  • Total absorption in subject
  • Have imagination 
  • Have vision
  • Didn’t reinvent the wheel – built on present and past knowledge
  • Look at the limitations of old inventions and devise a solution
  • Modify present technologies for other uses
  • Make connections between two different things
  • Combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills
  • Pay attention to detail
  • Give vital ideas the opportunity to take root and grow

How many of these traits do you have? And how many could you acquire with concerted effort? If you re-read yesterday’s blog post you will notice that some of the above traits are similar to some of the activities mentioned by survey respondents.

All of us are capable of generating our own great ideas. Read widely, reflect on life, travel to places that you’ve never been before, eat foods from different cultures, interact with nature, think about problems that need solving and work on ways to solve those problems. Immerse yourself in many activities and create new experiences for yourself. We can learn from the experiences of others, and we can use the words of others as Invisible Mentors to help us make progress in life. We can stand on the shoulders of giants!

What are your thoughts? How can you build on this concept?

Related Post: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part I)

Photo Credits: Avil Beckford


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Part I)

April 9, 2009
The Sky is the Limit

The Sky is the Limit

 Every successful product and service started with a great idea, but where do great ideas come from?

About five years ago, by way of an email survey, I decided to explore the concept of great ideas. I asked the following questions and twelve people of varying backgrounds took the time to share their views.

  1. Where do great ideas come from?
  2. Do great ideas come only to some people?
  3. How will you know if you have a really great idea?
  4. What constitutes a great idea?

Here are the thoughts of survey respondents about what a great idea is:

An idea that gives someone a new perspective or way in which to see the world
Something that helps mankind to create, evolve or develop in some specific way
Fresh, in the sense that I haven’t heard it before and it offers a solution to a challenge that may be long-standing or a challenge that I may not even be aware of yet
An idea that fills a need that is greater than personal self interest; a need that will serve others be they constituents, shareholders, stakeholders or the public at large

When it came to determining if there was a process for generating ideas, the responses were different, and it showed that there wasn’t a clear process for generating great ideas.

Pray and meditate, knowing that the answers will come when the time is right
Respond to a stimuli that starts me thinking which results in a new idea
Read the best that has been thought and said about things that really matter, talk to thoughtful people about things that really matter, spend time reflecting on things that really matter and prepare the soil as best as you can
Ideas are always out there. You just have to put two different ideas or thoughts together to create something new
Sit quietly and wait for them [ideas] to come to me from the depths of my subconscious
Brainstorm everything I am thinking about on a piece of paper, then look for ideas that will connect with those ideas using the internet, newspaper, books and so on.  Look at the context in which you want to use the ideas then add, subtract or combine ideas, and once you have a great idea look at how to implement it
Think about the situation and think about the best possible solution, even if it’s an impossible solution

Great ideas came to respondents at different times. One respondent had a Eureka moment while sitting in church watching and listening to a group of musicians. For others it happened immediately after praying and meditating, talking and trading insights and reading a book on the subject matter. For others it happened after a process of thinking and visualization.

So, how do you know when you’ve got a great idea?

You have a gut sense that the idea will help you fulfill the triple bottom line; best self, best work and contribute to my best world
It comes as a revelation. It gives you an understanding of something
It comes back into your mind again and again and you can’t ignore it
When other people are excited by it and want to get involved
Some great ideas come before their time. They won’t succeed because of conditions, circumstances, attitudes, belief and so on. Success or failure alone is not the judge.
When you feel bliss in its execution
You become very excited and can see the possibilities that can generate from the idea. You know that your idea is good when you see the entire picture and everything becomes “crystal clear”
When everything is in sync, your mind, body and your heart

“Everything has been thought of before, but the problem is to think of it again,” says Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Is that true? Where do your great ideas come from? How will you know when a great idea is staring you in the eye?

In Part II of Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, I will delve more deeply and highlight the common traits of the great thinkers and scientists who have changed the world. And it should not surprise you that they built on the work of others.

Photo Credit: Avil Beckford

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