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The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

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How to find good ideas

To open minds and find good ideas, return to the kid in the park. What is it about his attitude that allows fearless idea exploration? Linus Pauling, the only winner of two solo Nobel Prize awards in history, had this to say about finding ideas: "The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas." This sounds idiotic to most ears because it cuts against the systematic, formulaic, efficiency-centric perspective worshiped in schools and professions. It seems wasteful to follow Pauling's advice. Can't we just skip to the good ideas? Optimize the process? Memorize a formula to plug stuff into? Well, you can't.

The superficials of innovation are rarely impressive. This is a version of the first computer mouse.

Figure 6-2. The superficials of innovation are rarely impressive. This is a version of the first computer mouse.

The dirty little secret—the fact often denied—is that unlike the mythical epiphany, real creation is sloppy. Discovery is messy; exploration is dangerous. No one knows what he's going to get when he's being creative. Filmmakers, painters, inventors, and entrepreneurs describe their work as a search: they explore the unknown hoping to find new things worth bringing to the world. And just like other kinds of explorers, the search for ideas demands risk: much of what's found won't be satisfactory. Therefore, creative work cannot fit neatly into plans, budgets, and schedules. Magellan, Lewis and Clark, and Captain Kirk were all sent on missions ...

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