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Where New Ideas Come From

 In Coaching, Creativity, Idea Generation, Inspiration

Is there such thing as a completely original idea?

There is a school of thought that believes that there are no more (or incredibly few) original ideas anymore. Each new idea is really a combination of previous ideas. Everything is built on top of other people’s contributions.

It’s like old ideas are coming together to form something new. In his TED talk, Matt Ridley called it “idea sex.”

It reminds me of the innocent toddler asking, “Where do babies come from?” They don’t just materialize out of thin air. Or get delivered by a stork.

It’s time to have The Talk.

About idea sex, of course.

If you think about it, a lot of things are combinations of other things that have already been created. The Apple watch is a combination of a smart phone and a watch. I remember seeing a commercial for a “breakfast taco,” which was a combination of a biscuit and egg sandwich and a taco. That one didn’t stick around. Not all combinations are meant to be!

Ridley’s talk focuses on the coming together of people as one of the best ways to innovate and create new ideas.

Knowing this, you can foster a creative and innovative way of thinking by encouraging idea sex. It’s great because you can do it with other people by engaging multiple minds, or you can do it inside your own head. Heck, I have idea sex with my clients all the time.

I think you can use this concept intentionally in several ways.

With Other People

As Ridley suggests, idea sex happens naturally when you bring people together and begin working on or talking about something. Everyone brings their own ideas and perspectives. When facilitated properly, others are able to build on what has already been said.

This happens in my mastermind group all the time. Someone will make a suggestion that causes lights to go on in my own head. Then I have the opportunity to share my revelation. Maybe that sticks, or maybe someone else takes it even further. It’s like an idea orgy.

In our case, we are often using existing business or marketing ideas and strategies, but finding ways to personalize them to a specific business.

The more people you have, the more ideas typically flow through the conversation. But you really only need two people to make it happen.

I’m working with an amazing coach on a big project for next year. It took us most of two phone conversations to get to a really good title for the project. It was like idea phone sex.

By Yourself

Yes, you can even have idea sex with yourself. Here’s how it might look.

Rather than expecting yourself to just come up with an original idea out of the blue, which is usually an exercise in frustration, start with a few ideas that are right in front of you.

What have you tried before, and how did it work? Look around and see what others have tried. How can you adapt it? Can you put the two together? Consider adding in another element that is completely different based on something you’ve experienced. What does that look like?

One specific example in the world of Content Creation is using metaphors, which I’ve written about before. You take two ideas and play around with them in your head to find the similarities or differences.

Writing or drawing are very useful tools in this process. Sometimes visually seeing ideas or words on paper or on a screen can spark new possibilities in your mind.

Have fun with this. It just might make you see brainstorming or masterminding sessions in a whole new light!

What do you think? Have you (knowingly or unknowingly) participated in idea sex? Does this shift your perspective? Leave a comment below.

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