Sunday, February 8, 2009
IDEAS BUILD ON IDEAS
“A stand can be made against invasion by an army; no stand can be made against invasion by an idea.”
~ Victor Hugo (1802-85), French writer;
One cannot assume that ideas—like Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, who sprang from Jupiter’s forehead fully grown—emerge fully developed from one’s mind. When we think creatively the brain uses more energy than the rest of the body. This energy, when transformed into a great idea, is unbeatable!
“Ideas are capital. The rest is just money.”
— advertisement for Deutsche Bank, quoted by Leslie Becknell of Coca-Cola;
The previous prime movers of growth, such as land, manual labour, capital, natural resources, and kissing butt, have become less crucial to economic success.
Instead, success is now dependent on the quality of one’s thinking, the clarity of information processing, the energy within a workforce, and the capacity to generate and apply ideas on a continual basis.
Life evolves through a plethora of mistakes. Most mutations are a mess. 99% of all species that have existed no longer exist. The brain goes through a whole chorus of conversations, and
corrections, in order to generate ideas.
To charm ideas out of hibernation, we should note that creativity depends on two great universal forces: one is order, the other, chaos. Creativity emerges when we are somewhat out of sync with our environment, enmeshed in order, churning in chaos.
‘Charmed’ ideas often need a period of incubation, before they hatch. This condition requires that we
· nurture open systems rather than closed ones;
· use rules of thumb, rather than rules;
· invite and accept reasonable confusion, disorder, and mistakes;
· create a non-equilibrium process that operates between random chaos and rigid order;
This applies to the very heart of life. According to a report produced by two Harvard researchers—much to their surprise—heart attack patients at highest risk are those with unusual patterns of cardiac activity.
Healthy hearts are more irregular, more chaotic. The trick, it seems, in life, is to function within the region existing between static equilibrium and dynamic chaos. It is this domain that characterises the creative zone. This is where one might celebrate the happy occasion of idea-popping. But how does it all happen? No one knows for certain, but we do know that the process is non-linear.
One grain of sand can cause the collapse of a sandhill. This is unpredictable, non-linear behaviour. Our brains are also non-linear and a small input, like a grain of information, can produce disproportionate changes in the way we think and in the ideas we produce.
(If we somehow were to destroy the tiny ocean plankton,the oxygen percentage on our planet would plummet, and even organisms not living in oceans, including humans, would become extinct).
This comes from Chaos Theory, where the junction between order and chaos is the point at which self-organisation arises: from the embrace of stability and instability. There are then no boundaries within such an embrace.
To get the best out of popped ideas, we might need to indulge in a bit of idea-cooking, where heat and light imbue our ideas with richness and flavour.
The Quantum Theory, created by Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, and several others, casts some light on the mystery of matter, encapsulating secrets within a pair of postulates.
First: Energy is not continuous, as the ancients thought, but occurs in discrete bundles called “quanta.” (The photon, or light particle, for example, is a quantum or packet of light.)
Second: Subatomic particles have both particle and wavelike qualities, obeying a well-defined equation, the celebrated Schrödinger wave equation, which determines the probability of certain events occurring.
In much the same manner as light quanta, ideas are packets of energy, with individual particles coalescing into mighty waves. These ideation waves can transform the course of evolution, and determine the ultimate destiny of our species.
When we look at such waves within an ideation network, there are two features that are distinctive: nodes and connections. The size of the nodes is becoming irrelevant, but the quantity and quality of the connections are vital.
Any one idea might be weak in itself, but when we create a beehive of ideas, the limited intelligence of a single idea synergistically accumulates power.
The emergence of a great idea happens when a swarm of ideas merge into a fresh identity; this is how insignificance morphs into intelligence. What was isolated and inert, has become connected and animated.
"The internet model has many new lessons for the new economy but perhaps the most important is its embrace of dumb swarm power. The aim of swarm power is superior performance in a turbulent environment."
~ Kevin Kelly;
Ideas, once born, must be banked, so that they may be perpetuated. The paradox of creativity has been addressed by Lao Tzu in his expression, wei-wu-wei, action through inaction. One must not confuse action with activity.
Action is creativity come alive, born out of composure; activity is the obliteration of creativity, born out of restlessness. Banked ideas are saturated with potential, in a state of inaction, awaiting action via the agency of an intelligent operator. If hijacked into activity, ideas decay or die by being force-fed into irrelevance.
Trying to perfect an idea will leave it imperfect. Let the idea flow in harmony with nature, and an unfolding takes place: the effort of getting the idea to ‘become’ something is useless unless one recognises that the idea is already carrying its ‘being’within itself.
Every banked idea throbs with the essence of its own being, awaiting genesis, into prominence. Sadly, most do not make it beyond the first nanosecond ... often, due to bureaucratic bungling!
To think, feel, and act, as a creative organism, society needs inspired people inspiring people.
By paying lip service to bureaucratic mantras, people have become sheeple. Organisations may teach their workers to become skilled technically, but then, they still remain mere technicians. The aim should be to exude artistry within and beyond technicality.
Pure dependence on logic alone robs one of the poetry within our souls. In the realm of ideas, poetry comes alive via the human spirit in a state of flow, where a creative ‘emptiness’ leaves us free of bureaucratic baggage. Yet each emptiness also has a fullness to it.
For the creative individual, this fullness happens because emptiness allows ideas to blossom.
When the mass of minds within an organisation is in such a state, it would be opportune to conduct an ‘ideathon’ where creative spirits compete against one another to come up with cascades of ideas ... always noting that competition and business must operate so as to increase the sum of human happiness.
Creativity is rebellion against the status quo.
Non-creativity is carbon-copying, volunteer ing to slave under mobpsychology. The creative spirit is a dropout from mob mania and a champion of individualism. Going it alone, with the scent of fresh consciousness, the fragrance of the creative psyche reflects divinity.
An organization is a collection of individuals. When each individual exudes the creative spirit, the union of creative souls morphs into a culture of creativity. This is when the organization blooms into prominence and evolves into a society of innovation champions.
Ideas gestate within experiences, interactions, and relationships. They cause technologies to conjugate, market boundaries to warp, and industries to radically transform. Once narrow and well-defined domains have now morphed and amplified into more complex entities under the context of incessant innovation ~ innovation value multiplied!
The criss-crossing of ideas, hyper-linking of relationships, and agility of alliances are features of a world reconfigured by convoluted webs of innovation.
From it all, we enjoy a Return on Innovation (ROI) composed of paradoxes such as perpetual novelty, consistent surprise, and relentless discontinuity. This is a new world where we need to think, learn, and interconnect in multiple dimensions.
[Excerpted from the 4th subscription issue of 'Ideas on Ideas' in The Brain Dancer Series of bookazines by Dilip Mukerjea. All images in this post are the intellectual property of Dilip Mukerjea.]