According to Steven Johnson, the absolute best ideas are not based around that spark of genius, that moment of aha! Instead, Johnson argues in his book Where Good Ideas Come From that great ideas follow a certain pattern that we can see in most stories of invention, but also coral reefs and cities.
Johnson suggests that ideas have a certain building and blending pattern that are unique to them. He turns the dynamic from a genius hatching an idea to one that is cultivated slowly, distilling and building over time until the idea itself actually takes a final shape.
Rather than long hours spent in the lab, Johnson finds over and over again that the best ideas were developed during conversations, over long walks with colleagues, and in writing ideas down over a long period of time. He also talks about the combustible nature of ideas–how places where ideas are allowed to develop and grow help create new ideas. Think of the coffee shop culture in 19th century Europe, or more modern mixing places, like TED Talks.
Of the general pattern for better developing your own ideas, Johnson writes:
“The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, re-invent.”
In that line of thought, besides frequenting your own local coffee shop more and writing down more of your ideas, find some more of your own thinking juice with this list of my favorite TED videos.
Have your own favorite TED videos? Shout ‘em out in the comments!