Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

Stuck on a problem? Here’s how I get inspired with new ideas

February 20, 2008

I get my most inspirations by reading books. Oftentimes I will be reading a book on a totally unrelated subject, and it will say something that suddenly connects to a problem that I am working.

Stuck on a problem? Want to get inspired? Raid books for inspiration!

Outsource it or do it in-house?

November 20, 2007

When should an organization outsource a job and when should an organization do the job in-house? Let’s consider an example.

Consider a book publisher. Rather than having a staff of full-time writers whom it would pay to write books, the publisher bids for books and negotiates with agents.

Book publishers outsource because they want to have access to the maximum diversity of ideas and information. A publisher thinks its chances of publishing interesting books are better it leaves the door open to lots of different writers, and so it’s willing to endure the hassle of having to sign each book on a case-by-case basis. The benefits of leveraging the actions and intelligence of the crowds outweigh the costs.

Need to tap into the collective intelligence? Then outsource it.

Need things done quickly? Then do it in-house.

— Extracted from The Wisdom of Crowds by James Suroweicki

Antidote for the “not invented here” syndrome

September 28, 2007

Want to discover something or invent something? Discovering or inventing something that is completely new, that no one has ever conceived, is very unlikely (virtually zero probability). You are much more likely to succeed by taking an existing idea and applying it in a novel way.

Below is a quote from the book Hard Facts by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton. They are talking about the benefits to companies of using old ideas in new ways. However, I think this benefit applies to all of us, not just companies.

I have always (mistakenly) thought that research meant discovering/inventing something totally new. If I were Albert Einstein then perhaps I could do that. Since I’m not, I now realize that a better approach is to expand my learning to many different areas and then apply ideas from other areas to my area of research.

“Creativity is mostly sparked by old ideas. Both major creative leaps and incremental improvements come from fiddling with ideas from other places and blending them in new ways.”

“Better ideas result when people act like nothing is invented here and seek new uses for others’ ideas.”

“Unfortunately, too many companies are plagued by the not invented here syndrome, where people insist on using homegrown ideas, especially ideas that can be ballyhooed as new and different.”

Are all ideas subjective? Are there objective ideas?

September 18, 2007

 We are likely to think that all ideas are things that occur within our mind and are thus subjective.  It may be difficult to imagine that there are objective ideas.  But there are objective ideas, and it can be understood by examining the meaning of the word “idea.”

Subjective Ideas

The first meaning of “idea” is the content we have in our minds when we are thinking. It includes the sensations and perceptions we have, the images we form, the memories we summon up, and the conceptions or notions that we employ in our thinking.

When the word “idea” is used in this way, all the various items referred to are subjective. My sensations or perceptions are not yours; the images that occur in my dreams or the memories I dwell upon when I reminisce are mine alone; so too are the concepts or notions I have formed as I study a difficult topic.

To call them “subjective” is simply to say that they are private, not public. When I speak of them as mine – my perception, my memory, or my concept – I am saying that the perception, memory, or concept in question belongs to me alone. You can have no access to it, just as you cannot have access to the toothache I am suffering.

Objective Ideas

In its other meaning, the word “idea” refers to an object that two or more persons can have access to, can focus on, can think about, can discuss.

If we disagree about a decision just handed down by the Supreme Court, we may find ourselves challenging each other’s views about justice. It I ask you for your view of justice, I am asking you to tell me what you think about it, and I am also prepared to tell you what I think about it. The “it” here is justice as an object of thought, both your thought and mine, not justice as a concept in your mind, but not mine.

We each have concepts in our minds – concepts we think with when we think about justice. Furthermore, your concepts and mine are distinct. But that does not prevent both of us from thinking about one and the same object – an object of thought we call “justice”, and sometimes we refer to as “the idea of justice.”

Six Great Ideas by Mortimer J. Adler

Veneration for Human Creativity and the Power of Ideas

August 6, 2007

“[The plots of the Tom Swift books are:] Tom would get himself into a terrible predicament, in which his fate and that of his friends, and often the rest of the human race, hung in the balance.  Tom would retreat to his basement lab and think about how to solve the problem.  This, then, was the dramatic tension in each book in the series: what ingenious idea would Tom and his friends come up with to save the day?  The moral to these tales was: the right idea has the power to overcome a seemingly overwhelming challenge.”

“[My grandfather had the rare opportunity] to touch with his own hands some original manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci.  He described the experience with reverence … I was raised with veneration for human creativity and the power of ideas.”

— Ray Kurzwell

Preciseness is Necessary for Creativity

July 1, 2007

Precision makes for clearness of thought, and thence for boldness of thought and for fertility in trying new combinations of ideas.

When initial thoughts are vague and slipshod, at every subsequent state of thought common sense has to step in to limit applications and to explain meanings.

In creative thought common sense is a bad master. Its sole criteria for judgment is that the new ideas shall look like the old ones. In other words it can act only by suppressing originality.

   — Alfred Whitehead, An Introduction to Mathematics