Where do good ideas come from? Reflecting on where we spend our most constructive time.

I’ve got a book in my hand called ‘where good ideas come from‘ (S Johnson, 2010, Penguin). The subtitle is ‘a natural history of innovation‘. It looks great. One day i’ll actually read it. That would probably be a good idea. The problem is that there are so many things to do, so many books to read, so much to learn, that it becomes hard to prioritise.

Today, my diary is empty, which is a rare occurrence and an unparalleled opportunity to get stuck into the book. Not reading Steven’s book (which i’m sure i’ll enjoy), but rather The Book, the one i’m trying to write and which eludes me with regularity. But before i do that, i need to write the blog, which left me with a dilemma. What if i accidentally put all my best ideas today into the blog instead of The Book? What if i accidentally exhausted my creativity writing about technology, when i should be churning through a chapter on ‘reflection‘. What if i put the effort in the wrong place.

A patently absurd idea i know, but it is true that there is a limit to what we can achieve in any given day/month/lifetime, and we need to marshall and spend our resources to best effect. One of the reasons for starting the blog was because i looked at where i did all my best writing. I worked out the hundreds of thousands of words that i wrote every year that were spent on risk assessments, proposals, contracts, emails, RFPs and reports. All very worthy, all very important and all for other people. I was spending all my best ideas and best efforts elsewhere. I work in learning, but i was failing to learn myself.

Hence the blog and hence why we are sat here today, with an unread book and a fine cup of ethiopian coffee: because i realised that the best ideas come through collaboration and by building knowledge over time, not just running around and being busy.

The Book is the next stage of evolution for me, a chance to take some of the ideas that i rehearse here and develop them further, in a more refined format (believe that if you will…).

The notion that we need to consider where we have our best ideas and where we spend our best time is significant. It’s part of the contract that we form with learners, understanding that we are asking them for part of their best ‘learning‘ time, but that in return we will be giving them materials and an experience that is worthwhile. We need to ensure that we keep up our end of the deal if we expect people to put their best effort in.

But of course ideas are not things that you can call on demand. There is no particular correlation that i can see between ‘time invested‘ and ‘quality of ideas‘. You can spend all day looking at a blank screen waiting for the elusive idea to strike. Whilst reading Steven’s book may give me an idea of where he thinks ideas come from, i couldn’t be sure that it will help spark mine.

Ideas to come from strange places. Terry Pratchett sometimes uses the analogy that ideas streak through the universe and occasionally strike people on the way through. It’s a nice idea. It might be true. I’ll have to reflect on it more as i try to write the next chapter…

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Book, Coffee, Collaboration, Ideas, Innovation, Introspection, Learning, Publishing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Where do good ideas come from? Reflecting on where we spend our most constructive time.

  1. Sydney Smith says:

    Julian, yet another great blog, with ideas that I have been thinking, reading, and even stating for some time (but not nearly as clearly). Thank you for sharing.

    • julianstodd says:

      Thanks Sydney, it’s so easy to get caught up in being ‘busy’ that it is hard to actually change what we do! One of the joys of blogging is that it inherently lets you ‘celebrate your success’, so i know that today is my 309th blog post, which helps me keep momentum. Having the chance to work in the States last year and meet so many great people, many of whom i now regularly collaborate with, has helped me widen my perspective and hence change what i do (and the quality of my ideas…? hmmm :-)

  2. Maggie says:

    The problem I have with ideas is that they look really good when they’re inside my head, but once I get them down on paper, they don’t look all that good after all. Good post!

    • julianstodd says:

      Good point Maggie, and i share that frustration! I’m currently working with someone who said to me in frustration “i know it’s clear in your head, but you’ve got to find a way to write it down, because i just don’t understand”.

      When you find the solution, please let me know… :-)

  3. Pingback: A place for everything and everything in it’s place: creating an environment for learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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