Where do ideas come from?

Have you ever wondered how Thomas Edison had that moment that gave him his famous light bulb idea? Or what prompted Alexander Graham Bell’s inspired moment when he dreamed up the telephone? Come to think of it, where did any of the momentous, society-changing ideas of the last century spring from? And in today’s fast-paced digital age, are they any easier to come by?

The concept of ideas, how they start and where they come from, fascinates us at 7billionideas and I’m sure many of the students and parents of The Arcadia Preparatory School family as well. What makes an idea good? What makes an idea bad? Why do some ideas develop and others do not? The question of “Where do good ideas comes from?” has been queried before. As you can imagine, being the school’s Entrepreneur in Residence, I do have an opinion on this big question.

True innovation has a multitude of origins. Great ideas have resulted because someone encountered a problem and needed to find a solution. But they can also be a spontaneous occurrence, generated almost randomly. A good idea doesn’t even have to be brand new, just an improvement on what is already out there. In social media circles, MySpace was out there long before Facebook came along, but Facebook ended up staying the course because it was a better way of social networking.

Good ideas are also created when a series of small ideas come together to create a big idea. These small ideas are known as hunches, which are ad hoc ideas logged in the brain and then a moment comes when they are all added together (or collide) and they create a new idea. The challenge people have is they don’t allow hunches to develop and often hunches are forgotten.

Every day, we see innovation happening all the time via multiple channels. Some of the most creative ideas that I come across appear when working with your children at The Arcadia Preparatory School. Children’s imaginative capabilities are very different to those of adults, which are influenced, often quelled, by their life experience. Those of young children are quite unrestricted and, as a result, they produce some amazing ideas.

In some cases, to dream up the seemingly impossible, you simply have to be able to suspend your disbelief. Look at some of the more futuristic ideas that have been suggested, laughed at, and then gone on to become reality. Television, cars, mobile phones, online shopping, and spacecraft, were all deemed to belong to the realms of fantasy. Today we can’t imagine life without them.

All things aside, we know that ideas can come at any time, from any place, from desperation, euphoria, or from the pressure of a deadline. It can strike while you are busy doing something totally unconnected. They also come from that most human of pastimes, daydreaming – something that every one of us does – and that makes us all potential creators of the next big idea…


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