Posts Tagged ‘idea’

What Good Ideas, Coffee Shops, Incubation, and GPS Have in Common

September 27, 2010 1 comment


Steven Johnson, a writer who focuses on where science and technology intersect, is coming out with a book about where good ideas come from.  This past summer, he shared some of his findings during a TEDtalk in England.  Following are key points:

  • An idea is not a single thing (a eureka moment, lightbulb turns on, a stroke of genius, …)
    • We think it’s that expensive innovative one-of-a-kind idea
  • An idea is a network
    • Really it’s what we piece together from whatever spare parts we happen to have around
  • Most great ideas are formed over a long incubation period (The slow hunch)

Therefore, spaces that creative an environment that will foster good ideas / innovations must:

  • Be more like a coffeehouse
  • Invite people of diverse backgrounds to engage with each other
  • Be a bit chaotic
  • Bring people together (The Liquid Network)
  • Enable people’s hunches to interact with each other’s

As a result, GPS is born out of a casual conversation, incubated over time through interaction of people from diverse backgrounds to be amongst the first open platform technologies; which you have probably recently used to find a coffee shop near you.

On a personal note, I often describe myself as an “oral processor” and am recognized as an “ideator.”   Johnson’s findings resonate quite loudly for me as I also craft ideas over time through interaction with other people.  Maybe it’s something that came natural for me, but it certainly is a pattern that anyone can replicate.

Think about how this would impact the way you:

  • design an office space,
  • set-up an online community,
  • re-arrange a classroom environment,
  • interact with your family and friends in a completely different way,
  • expand the breadth of people you choose to interact with, and
  • leverage the interactions with all people in your life.

It’s worth your 18 minutes to watch the video &/or peruse the interactive transcript available on the TED website:

or if you prefer to watch illustrated presentations, check-out this 4 minute version:


Meaning of “Catalyst”


What does “Catalyst” mean?

  1. A substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible (Merriam-Webster).
  2. An agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action (Merriam-Webster).
  3. Catalysts work by changing the activation energy for a reaction, i.e., the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur. This is accomplished by providing a new mechanism or reaction path through which the reaction can proceed. When the new reaction path has a lower activation energy, the reaction rate is increased and the reaction is said to be catalyzed (
  4. Any substance serving as the agent in catalysis (
  5. A person or thing acting as the stimulus in bringing about or hastening a result (

When does something or someone serve as a catalyst?

Based on these definitions, someone or something serves as a catalyst when they/it:

  • Provokes
  • Speeds up, or
  • Stimulates an action, reaction, or change.

How does this understanding impact the spread of ideas?

I just love the 3rd definition that talks about changing the activation energy, the minimum energy needed for the reaction to occur.  Think about any change you would like to see in your home, organization, or community … what do you think is the minimum energy needed for that change to occur?  Isn’t that a fabulous way to think to think about what “catalyst” is required to move an idea forward / to spread?

How does this impact the ability for people, organizations, and communities to change (aka have an impact)?

Some pre-thought about what will be required to insight action / change is required.  You can’t just “will” a change to occur.  You have to take action.  OK, so this isn’t a novel thought, but how much effort gets wasted without having thought about it in advance?  If we are better able to define the minimum energy required, then we can better target our efforts to spread ideas and be a catalyst for change.

How to Start a Movement, in less than 3 minutes!

April 2, 2010 2 comments


Following is an outline of what Derek Sivers shows in a video during his TEDTalk explaining How to Start a Movement in less than three minutes:

1.  A leader needs the guts to stand out from the crowd and be ridiculed

  • Leadership in a movement is actually over-glorified

2.  It must be about the followers

  • A leader must embrace and nurture the first followers as an equal
  • The first follower is what transforms a known nut into a leader
  • If you see a lone leader doing something great, have the guts to stand beside and follow!

3.  A movement must be public.

  • Three is a crowd and a crowd is news!
  • If you really want to start a movement, have the courage to be a follower!

4.  Must show the followers, not just the leader.

  • New followers emulate the followers, not the leader.
  • If you really want to start a movement, have the courage to teach others how to follow!

5.  Momentum of followers – now we have a movement!

  • The tipping point
  • The more people that join in, the less risky it is
  • They won’t stand out, they won’t be ridiculed, but they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry

6.  The movement becomes the crowd.

  • Once enough people have joined, the movement becomes the crowd
  • To NOT participate is to risk being ridiculed
Categories: Idea Spread Tags: , ,

Learning to be a Better Idea Generator – Anybody Can?

March 25, 2010 1 comment


Found a great blog from The Creative Leadership Center via a RT from someone I follow. One post breaks down how Anybody Can Learn to Become A Better Idea Generator.

Let’s walk through and consider each of the four steps:

Improving knowledge improves results

“…creating ideas means that a person processes memorized information and combines it in new ways.”  The more knowledge you have, the more facets / angles you can leverage to recombine and connect other things to in order to create new ideas.

Quantity improves quality

I took a Break-Through Strategic Planning course a few years back and the facilitator took us through this exercise where we started to write down everything we could think of in the topic of “weapon”.  She gave us lots of times to do this and what we found was the items we listed later in the activity were the most interesting and creative.  The longer we participated in this activity, the better we were able to migrate from left-brain thinking to right-brain / creative thinking. The following image depicts this transition from left (blue) brain thinking to right (green). The vertical represents time.

Since first being exposed to this activity, I’ve used it as a way to unlock creativity in a group that needs to really thinking differently about a topic.  I usually use “tools” as a topic since “weapons” might be offensive to some.

Studying idea-creation methods pays back

Yes, techniques are important, just like the one I shared above.  Which ones do you know and use?

On the point about creating prototypes, in my own thoughts about approach to ideation, I’ve gone on to think about once again using mind-mapping tools to help organize and facilitate ideation.  Partly because connecting is a big part of the way I go about idea-creation.  Not only would it possible foster additional thoughts, but would also provide a tangible tool for sharing the process with others or recalling the journey to an eventual idea.

One has to tolerate uncertainty

People with an ideation strength or who like to engage in idea-creation / brainstorming, etc. are more naturally tolerant of the uncertainty that this process induces.  I’ve worked with futurists and other strength-types whose minds immediately dive to a future state and work backwards and this kind of activity really drives them crazy.  I don’t believe that just because something isn’t your strength that you shouldn’t be involved in it (because you really have something valuable to contribute). I do believe that we should seek people who really enjoy and are great at doing this to involve in our process.  Draw on the strengths of people and be sensitive to the fact that just because we enjoy it doesn’t mean everybody does and it can be extremely uncomfortable for others.  If one must be able to tolerate uncertainty, then no wonder people with a futurists talent theme tend not to enjoy this!

Interesting, not all that eye-opening, but helpful to consider purposeful ways to improve idea-generation capability.  I subscribe to the philosophy that time spent developing your areas of talent / strength is time much better spent than just developing your weaknesses.  It may just be better to recognize the value of certain activities and engage people with strengths to bolster your own weaknesses.

Categories: Idea Spread, You in B&W Tags: ,

Approach for Idea Processing

March 22, 2010 4 comments


Have you ever found a key stuck “on” on your cell phone or some other electronic device?  What happens?  It drains your battery very quickly because it’s constantly on.  Lately, this is exactly how I feel.  My mind is processing so much thought, so many ideas for so much of the day that I’m exhausted at the end of the day (not very good for being an attentive mother and wife at home) and I’m not sure that it produces the best quality ideas in the end, either.

Following are some approaches I’m employing to address this new current state:

Approach A – Write it Down:

I started this blog.  This was my first approach to addressing the craziness of ideas in my mind.  It serves as an outlet to capture and organize thoughts & ideas (drafts are awesome to use) and then to invite others to contribute to formulating those ideas further.  Specifically, I’m working on these two ideas:

Idea #1: How Do Ideas Spread Virally?

Idea #2 – Making the Most of How You Are Wired

Approach B – Focus:

I believe this thought came to me in the middle of the night last night (thus the need for approach A).  Try to pick ONE idea each morning and just focus on that one idea for the day.  It will morph throughout the day as connections are made, but allow the mind to chew one idea.  I haven’t tried this yet, but hope that it will help to produce better quality idea-formation by allowing the time for each idea.

I read somewhere (wish I could find the reference and will add it once I do find it again) that successful CEOs / leaders only focus on one or two things per day.  More and more evidence has been shared that “multi-tasking” isn’t really productive at all, it’s draining.  This seems like something worth exploring more.

Approach C – Quiet the Mind:

Sometimes, you just need to turn it off!  This approach came in a conversation with my friend Tony Elliott – Meditation.  I should find a process for meditating and use that at an appropriate time each evening to Quiet the Mind and enable me to be more “present” at home.  I still like this idea and plan to find a process, but it needs to be quick if it will be realistic for me to use it daily.

As I begin to focus on finding innovative / start-up organizations as an initial learning partner, I think it will be especially important to develop good tactics for improving the quality of ideation, speed to results, and ability to stay sane!  It’s an exciting direction and consistent with what I know about myself and believe it will provide an opportunity to put the brightest of me into action.  I am thankful for living in one of the most entrepreneurial areas in the US and innovative city in the world!  (Denver/Boulder 19 of 25 world’s most inventive cities – home to inventors producing substantial number of quality patents.)

Categories: Idea Spread Tags:

Further pursuit of Virus metaphor


Further exploration of Virus metaphor:

  • What actually spreads, is it the original idea, or a mutation of the idea?
  • What condition(s) exist when the virus begins to spread?
  • What immunities DO NOT exist / what vulnerabilities DO exist to enable spread of the virus?

This virus metaphor will be a great way to provide a cognitive image or something conceptual.  Some people will appreciate this imagery.  Others won’t be able to get it, so straight exploration questions need to be explored as well as simple implications / applications of the learnings.

Additional exploration questions:

  • How does culture impact spread?
  • How does public policy impact culture / impact perception / impact innovation / impact idea spread?

[Great conversation with Lola Wilcox yesterday (thanks for Ideation session!)]

Categories: Idea Spread Tags: , ,