Friday, January 4, 2013

New Ideas from Old Ideas



As we move into the New Year , it would be worthwhile to ask how to create New Ideas from Old Ideas. New Ideas are constantly born as Old Ideas die - I am reminded of the title of Matt Ridley’s.TED talk “When Ideas have Sex. It is true that one can combine old ideas and create new ideas. I went on to think about how I can create New Ideas out of Old Ideas and here are my thoughts.

I am a problem-solver and I solve problems

whether I like it or not !

When I was walking and wondering who we really are, I realised that we are problem-solvers. We spend a good part of our life solving problems – either our own problem or others’ problem. When I said only a good part of our life and not our entire life, I had in mind the time that we also spend in creating the problems. With the recent trend of globalization, we are also solving problems that are far away from us in space – the recent successes in Reverse Innovation indicate that we are doing the right thing [1]. Also, some of us are consciously ahead of our times and work on problems that are away from us in time [2]. There are a variety of problems that we solve - present vs future, real vs, virtual, individual vs collective, personal, social, intellectual, emotional, spiritual etc

Needless to say that the way in which we solve the problem depends on the way in which we interpret and define the problem. Conventional wisdom says that if we want new ideas, a good place to begin is to interpret the situation new and re-define the problem. However it was not easy for me to look at the problem through a different lens, I struggled to overcome my psychological inertia (just to give a name to it).

My problem is mine alone


Oh God, that scares me !

We may solve the problem on our own or take help from others. When we look for help, we look for people around us. Though we know that smarter folks have lived before us, we don’t look for much help from them. We feel that the problems that they solved are quite different from ours and most things have changed since their times. Most often, we think our problems are unique and believe that we are solving it for the first time. If you think your problem is the worst one – suggest you read “You are lucky my ducky – Dr Seuss” – this is a book for us not for our children.

Why not we try this

a smarter way perhaps !

However, when we think about this for some time, we realise that similar problems have been solved by many others in other domains across the centuries. I was quite impressed when I looked at those ideas but I again felt that the problem that I am trying to solve is very different. However, I can still access the ideas of the past Masters and use their thoughts to trigger my own thinking. These are only triggers - I still need to put lots of efforts to apply these ideas and solve my problems - but I have some support now, something to look at and derive support - my chances of solving is definitely higher.

Thoughts to trigger Thinking

Remember, it is only a trigger

My intent is not to apply old solutions to solve new problems – it is to find triggers to break away from current ideas and allowing new ideas to grow.

Can a Bendoin solve the problem of an Eskimo ? Can a south Indian farmer solve the problem of an Israeli farmer ? Can a Surgeon from BC solve a healthcare problem of the twenty first century AD ? Can a monk of the seventh century give clues to improve the utility of social networking ?

How do we go about this

for those who like to see a process flow, here it is

• Identify the important problems that we need to solve today

• Explore the important problems of the future that we need to understand today

• Interpret these problems from multiple perspectives

• Define these problems holistically



• Look for similar problems in other domains that have been solved earlier

• Extract triggers for thinking from those ideas

• Use the triggers to challenge our thinking



• Create New Ideas, boldly

• Incubate and grow the New Ideas, patiently

• Build new solutions that really solve the Problems, systematically

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