Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Great Ideas, Slow Hunches And Coffee

If you share my fascination with how great ideas are generated, invest 18 minutes of your time in watching Steven Johnson’s TED Talk ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’.

Johnson talks about ‘the slow hunch’, busting the myth that all ideas occur in eureka-like flashes. The slow hunch is where ideas may linger for years fading into view slowly, rather than emerging in a single flash of inspiration. If you allow hunches to connect with other hunches, they can be really powerful.

Johnson argues we should be focusing on connecting ideas rather than protecting them. We tend to be nervous about sharing ideas because we don’t want to lose control, or have someone else steal it. I’m not sure I agree about slow hunches; I have ideas that have lingered around for years, and I figure the reason I haven’t made them happen is that they just aren’t strong enough. Otherwise they would’ve happened – right? Isn’t success sometimes about executing your idea ahead of the competition?

Johnson frames his presentation in the historical context of the 1650s when Britain saw the emergence of the coffee shop. Before then the prevalent drink was alcohol that would be consumed from breakfast right throughout the day. As coffee shops opened people started drinking tea and coffee, a stimulant rather than a depressant, and with that came great clarity of ideas. The coffee shop created the perfect incubator for connecting, exchanging and sharing those hunches. It’s a tradition I am proud to uphold 350 years on where the coffee shop/ my coffee ritual is part of my own ideas generation.


John Bardos - IdeaEconomy said...

Great video.

I think there is an element of both a eureka moment and slow hunch in all great ideas. No, idea exists in isolation. Every new idea is built up of previous innovations. Like Newton's "standing on the shoulder of giants" quote, we all have countless past influences that are the basis of our new ideas. (This reminds me of James Burke's fantastic Connections TV series.) All of our ideas linger in our heads waiting for us to connect them together.

Then there is that Eureka moment when a creative mind combines those past ideas together to create something new.

I think creative inspiration is a lot like being a great chef. No chef is going to invent new ingredients but they can combine existing ingredients in amazing ways.

Ian Sanders said...

Thanks for your contribution John. You're right that no idea exists in isolation. I like your chef analogy. It's about mixing up those ingredients to create an awesome new dish....