Where do those good ideas come from? Stories?

I was watching this great video that is the animation of Stephen Johnson speaking…and I began to think. Where do good ideas come from? He takes us down a path to show us that they start with a hunch…this hunch can take years and years to grow. But what ultimately brings this good idea to life is this idea of connectivity.

But to me…it is more than just connectivity…it is the sharing of the ideas with others, the language exchanged. Mutual discourse leads to innovation. Yes, we can be connected to one another, but we have to bring that idea to a path of articulation. Let’s think for a second. Two people can have the solution to the other’s problem…and their collaborative efforts could yield the tremendous result. ┬áBut they have to do more than meet, they have to share. We can be invited to some of the greatest conferences with the brightest minds, and those bright minds can stand side-by-side in that room and never share.

Connectivity does not solve the problem. Or maybe it does. Well…those good ideas come from the articulation of those ideas when connectivity is achieved. One of the tools I teach at Clemson is the classic elevator pitch. I found this nifty little tool from Harvard’s Business School which is called the HBS Elevator Pitch Builder…it identifies:

– What would you most want the listener to remember about you?
– State the valued phrase as key results or impact.
– What is the unique benefit?
– What are the goals?

Now this is not perfect when trying to move beyond connectivity to communication…but it provides a barometer for the conversation. How do we break through the connectivity, to find those relationships we trust, and freely exchange the ideas that lead to innovation? Let’s take Twitter for example. Millions of people online using a portal to freely express ideas. You can share, you can listen, and you can sit and watch. By merely opening a webpage and logging into Twitter…you are connected. But what does it take to share an idea openly? What does it take to engage with a conversation inside this massive paradigm of social interactions to exchange ideas. Yes, it provides connectivity…but it can be the same as screaming your idea out loud in a crowd of millions. ┬áBringing language to your idea is hard!

I remember having this idea a few years ago after graduate school. It is a cool idea that I think one day will come true. My father encouraged me to go after the idea, but I was scared. He told me to just write it down and share it with others. But who would I share it with? How would I explain the idea. I did not have the language to articulate this idea and the network of people to share it with to bring it to life. Bringing language to life, giving life to an idea is more than connectivity…it is learning to articulate that idea. It is learning to articulate that particular idea at the right time when connectivity presents itself.

That is why storytelling is a great thing. It is the ability to articulate an idea in a way that connects with our audience. To help the audience see an idea in their context. When we share, when we articulate an idea, when give voice to our thoughts…we are telling the story of our idea. Bridging the gap between two connected people is language…the story of our idea.

Stephen Johnson’s Book: Where Good Ideas Come From