Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Where Do Great Ideas Come From?

(Extracts of a couple of my recent posts in The Heart of Innovation, the weblog I manage for Idea Champions, the "culture of innovation" training/consultancy.)

"In Your Dreams"

Well, there it is again.

I've discovered an amazing, arts-centered television channel, Ovation TV. They screen an impressive array of high quality programming on music, film, dance, painting, etc., the artists and their processes (quite a lot of it being BBC productions from the late 90's, interestingly enough).

It was specifically a trio of programs on music hosted by the legendary producer of the Beatles, George Martin, that gave me the jolt to write this. Together they're titled, "The Rhythm of Life," one lengthy show each on Rhythm, Melody, and Harmony. For those who love music, these programs are an unparalleled feast, with Martin listening to friends from Stevie Wonder to Michael Tilson Thomas playing and talking about the marvels and mystery of music.

In the one on melody, he talks with Paul McCartney about "Yesterday," Paul's greatest hit... Martin asked his old partner McCartney how he came up with that famous melody; and Paul simply said, "I dreamt it." He explained that he woke up from a dream, with that melody playing itself in his imagination.

One of the projects I've been working on here this year, and among the most inspiring and energizing, has been editing the updated version of the workbook for one of Idea Champions' most fundamental courses, the Creative Thinking Training, "Banking on Innovation" (in the process of rebirth as "Freeing The Genie").

One segment (adapted into this article, "AHA! Great Moments in Creativity,") dealt all of the breakthroughs in art, science and technology that came as unexpected gifts to the practitioner, who would later be credited with their discovery. It turns out that the ideas for many great inventions came to the "inventors" in their dreams.


"Where do Great Ideas come from?"

Ever notice how many times the biggest, most successful ideas come from closely imitating some principle at work in nature?

I've kept one particular book around for years both because it contained a statement that really rang my chimes, and it's full of beautiful, striking imagery. The book is, "Bridges, a history of the world's most famous and important spans," by Judith Dupre (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1997).

And its memorable, "Whoomp, (ta-ta, ta,) there it is," declaration:

"Bridges are based on one or more of three basic structures that are derived from forms found in nature: the beam, from a log fallen across a stream; the arch, from natural rock formations, and the suspension, from a hanging vine."
So there it is, again: a human "invention" that turns out to be fundamentally "derived from forms found in nature."

[more - with a later comment from the author of the book ]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"High Tech/High Touch"- Naisbitt Nailed IT Long Ago

The Boston Globe's Maura Welch mentions an unexpectedly earthy item by Nicholas Carr (a former editor of Harvard Business Review, who naturally has also been published all over the place), "about a new study that says Americans are having less sex and spending less time with friends in order to stay online longer. … He predicts a counter-movement is on the way and advises marketers to look for 'the digitivity dropouts,' who make disconnectivity the next big thing."

Commenters in his blog were all over Carr for this scandalous claim; a sample remark was, "I don't buy it. There's too much utility in the Net for people to drop off."

But for me it quickly brought to mind the prescient expression of the famed "futurist" John Naisbitt, who first floated the idea of "high tech/high touch" in his 1982 book, MegaTrends, and found that it gained enough traction over the years to turn into a full volume of its own in '99.

So I couldn't resist dropping a comment on the subject in Carr's far-ranging blog. In the cause of saving myself some keystrokes so I can get outside while it's still nice, I wrote that it reminded me of Naisbitt's phrase, which is proving to be one of those rare examples of a "futurist" who actually got it right.

It's an important reminder that the more wired and gadgetized our world becomes, the more effort we need to make to plant our feet in the physical "real world." (The real Real World, that is, not one of the pretend "reality show" worlds.)

Naisbitt wrote,

“In a High Tech world with an increasing search for balance, High Touch will be the key…"

(He refers to) "a mountain of evidence implicating technology in relentlessly accelerating our lives, and stirring profound yearnings for a more emotionally satisfying existence."
Now, do any of us really require "a mountain of evidence" anymore to prove that being wired 24/7 is simply a very unnerving experience? I think we've all got one of those nervous mountains in our own back yard -- those of us who are lucky enough to have a back yard of our own. (City dwellers, please substitute whichever room your computer and/or "media center" sits in.)

Related, here:
Interface or Face To Face?
Posts referencing the Globe's Business Filter