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  February 4, 2011
A Really Good Idea...


I recall that when my son was a small boy, we were eating breakfast at a small cafe near our local airport.  Every time a plane came into land, our conversation needed to stop as we could barely hear each other over the loud engine roar of the plane.  That’s when my son turned to me and said, "When I get older, I want to invent an airplane that doesn’t make any noise".

As an engineer, I chuckled at his naivety and decided not to burst his creative spirit by telling him all the scientific reasons why jet engines typically make a lot of noise.  I asked him a couple of follow-up questions (to which he had few answers) and soon the topic turned to other mundane topics such as "why do birds fly and not people?".

Creativity is a strange thing.  Many people sit at home or at their desks each day wondering what the next "big idea" will be and perhaps why they can’t think of a good idea themselves.  Good ideas are typically new and/or novel ideas. 

Wayne Gretzky is perhaps ice hockey’s greatest player ever.  Once asked about his success, he famously replied, "I never skate to where the puck is...but rather to where the puck will be".

Steve Jobs is another visionary who seems to be constantly skating to where "the puck" will one day be.  I often wonder, however, how many bad ideas does someone, like Steve Jobs, have before they come up with a winner.  I really believe that good ideas often stem from having several bad ideas.

Good ideas don’t come from looking around and copying what everyone else is doing.  They don’t come from watching TV or a movie; where every thinking activity is occurring between the ears.  They don’t come from listening to experts, talk radio, or the talking heading reading the nightly news.  They can come from reading a book, randomly surfing websites, or participating in an online discussion.

I typically get some of my best ideas while my head is under the shower (maybe the hot water on my head stimulates good ideas...or maybe that reasoning is just another one of my bad ideas).  I also get some great ideas when I’m on a long bike ride or on a long road trip in my car.

Some of my good ideas come from long conversations with friends who create a safe environment for me to share, they add their own input or embellish my original thoughts. 

Really good ideas come from novices who don’t know any better (such as my 4-year old son) rather than from people who seem to know better like focus groups.  They come in English, German, Chinese, Arabic and French.

Practice helps.  It’s often interesting to note that the people who often come up with good ideas are the same ones that come up with a lot of ideas.

Good ideas come from deep thought, being scared or frightened, looking to help people, and from nature.  They come from being alert and awake.  They come from active participation.  They come from listening rather than talking.

The first books that many of us read (at least in my age group) were the "Dick and Jane" books.  Two of the most important words that we first learned were "look" and "see".  Great ideas come from personal observations.

Great ideas come from a 4-year old boy who doesn’t know anything about physics.

Perhaps you can spend some time over the next few days thinking up as many ideas as you can...good and bad...practical and impractical... life-changing and mundane...

Sounds like a pretty good idea to me...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse, where we are always exploring new ideas and thoughts... 


Jim Kalb

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