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 ]

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