Where Do Bright Ideas Come From?

Oct 29, 2013

Scientific breakthroughs and profitable businesses all start the same way: someone comes up with a bright idea.

Our education system teaches people what to do with that idea. Scientists will test it with experiments. Entrepreneurs will develop business plans.

Strategic News Service publisher Mark Anderson says what’s missing is teaching people how to come up with the right ideas in the first place. 

Mark’s method consists of two steps:

1. Learning to See

Psychologists and neuroscientists have found most of us don’t really see the world as it is; we see the world as we have chosen to see it.

For example, instead of seeing a complex ecosystem with a variety of trees and wildlife, we just see a forest. Our brains gloss over the finer details. We perceive the world through a filter of preconceived notions.

Our brains develop these filters because it’s efficient. There’s so much detail in the world around us that you can get lost in it. But opening your eyes to that detail is essential for finding new ideas.

2. Learning to Think

Once you learn how to see, you’ll notice the world is full of patterns.

Mark says whether you want to be Einstein or run a large corporation, “you have to see patterns clearly and then process them through inductive reasoning, in a way which allows us to recognize what’s coming to us out of those patterns.”

Seeing how patterns are being made or broken will lead you to new ideas.

Steve Jobs Knew How To Do It

The late Steve Jobs didn’t rely on focus groups or spend a lot of time asking customers what they wanted. Instead, Mark says the Apple CEO “relied upon his own ability to see patterns” when it came to creating successful products such as the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad.

According to Mark, Jobs could see clearly, correctly analyze the patterns he saw, and integrate that information into product design.

But Right Idea Doesn’t Guarantee Success

Microsoft’s Bill Gates unveiled prototypes of tablets running a special version of Windows XP in 2001. He had the right idea, but couldn’t make it fly. Tablet computing didn’t take off until Apple’s iPad came out nine years later.

Mark says having the right idea is step one. It's a very important step that often gets overlooked. But once you get that idea, you still have to know what to do with it.