Steven Johnson recently gave a great Ted talk on where ideas come from and how to foster them. He makes a compelling argument that new game changing ideas don’t just pop into our head in the classic Eureka moment, but that they grow slowly over long periods of time. They are made of up many parts inspiration, contemplation and collaboration . Ideas come from thinking about things with others and thinking about the same things for years or decades before we have the “ahha moment” where our thinking might finally crystallize into something new. Following this line of reasoning, the best way to cultivate new insight is collaboration and discussion and by working on things that interest us even if they don’t first appear to have a direct connection with what we might normally think are important problems.
If you don’t have time for the whole 17min Ted talk, don’t miss Steve’s excellent 4 minute animation on the same topic.