When asked which is more important: the ideas or the prose, Jack Kerouac growled in return, “Ideas are a dime a dozen.” Well, kind of rude, but true, so true. How many good ideas die from lack of nurturing, development, exploration – or are killed due to cost or avarice?
Movies and books love to use the killing or obstruction of an idea as a main plotline. It makes for good storytelling, that is certain and we all probably have a story or two of our own to tell about a lost, bad or half-baked idea. Our lives are driven by our own ideas, ideas of people close to us, and even ideas of people we’ve ’ever met or who are long dead. The idea of ideas is the subject of so much legend because there is tremendous possibility in ideas.
How do we know when an idea is worth pursuing? What keeps us from pursuing an idea that ‘has legs’? The answers to these questions are numerous and dependent on whom you choose to talk to as far as scope. And most likely all valid, at least for the responder – which leaves it up to you to decide if the answer is valid in your case.
When you decide that you have an idea that you want to pursue you want to consider if you have any fixation that will create a barrier. Functional fixedness can come from cultural assumptions (a rural person is naïve) or from long-term knowledge (knowing cars because of shop class c1982). Your mental set, which is a natural leaning toward patterns and/or mechanized thinking (think riddles, which trap us in the expected) is another kind if fixation. Fixations can have a poor effect on ideas.
Is your idea fully formed? You can utilize divergent thinking, which is expansive and the main element of brainstorming to create options and a full framework for your idea. Look at your idea from all angles and facets; think about its originality and flexibility. But if you stay in divergent thinking mode, you will never move to the next step which is to plan how to execute your idea.
You can apply convergent thinking to drive your idea toward a solid meaning. Review all the points that came out of your divergent thinking and consider if they truly apply to the intent of your idea and will help drive it forward.
Once you develop your own process to vet your ideas, then you put yourself in a better position to take action on them.
[My thanks to Dennis Cass, author of Head Case: How I almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain for the technical speak used here.]
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