Article by Estelle H. Rie
It is the people with ideas who win most of the desirable places in the world. The person who can create something new and different is wanted – and rarely by the police! He is in demand for his ability to develop ideas. Those who achieve conspicuous success in business and advertising, in radio, drama, literature, journalism, in politics, society, and indeed all the professions and walks of life can attribute the large portion of their success to their capacity for getting and using their ideas.
Many large corporations maintain research departments which do nothing but look for and create new ideas. It is the new in automobiles, airplanes and technology in general – the new in government, politics, labor and industrial relations – the new in fashions, entertaining, advertising, books-that people constantly seek. We even say “What’s new?” as a greeting instead of “Hello.”
Many people work long and hard at a piece of work only to discover that their idea was no good to begin with. Why not make your ideas count for something? Do you have difficulty in getting ideas in the first place?
It is interesting to note that your education, race, age or experience have nothing to do with your success as an idea producer. You do not have to be a scientist, a technician, a writer, an artist. If your idea requires skills in these directions you can hire them later if needed. Successful ideas
come from persons in all walks of life, all ages and the least experience. No credentials are needed to go in the idea producing business. Even the sick and handicapped can participate in this rewarding activity.
Neither do your ideas have to be of long lasting value. As soon as they are utilized they make their contribution in increased production, jobs and sales even if only for a short time. Change and novelty may be useful in themselves and may encourage further ideas. Since every new idea is merely a combination of two or more old ideas or parts of old ideas, every new idea contains parts or material for a still newer one.
The need for new ideas is universal. Nothing in the world is completed to finality and cannot ever be, for the world changes from instant to instant. And nowhere is change so persistent, so quickly taken up, so lively and active as in the United States. We are an active people, quickly bored, restless, eager for change. Whole books have been written about induced obsolescence, the deliberate creation of changes in things which still possess much utility, wear, or beauty, merely to make them old fashioned or dated, so that new and different things will be purchased. It may be highly uneconomic, but it is profitable, especially to the idea producer.
You may believe of creating ideas as something tinged with considerable mystery. Like many others, you might think that it could not be cultivated, i.e. that it happens or does not happen.
Yet, getting an idea is a process-part of the cause and effect processes that controls all of life. Since there must be a reason for what happens, the matter comes down to knowing the reason and applying the method.
What then is the process of creating ideas?
People have been successful in extracting the wealth of the earth for their use but they have not learned to seek for the untold wealth which lies hidden in their own hearts and minds. It is in human beings as it is in soils where sometimes there is a vein of gold concealed.
To get ideas is a matter of creative thinking. It is a method for those who wish to get results in their own fields of work and in their own lives, for people with ideas live more enjoyably and more profitably than those without. A method of producing ideas is fundamental for any occupation and for life itself.
Everything that man produces begins as an idea. From the wrapper on a loaf of bread or the tube of shave cream all the way up to the latest best-seller; from nylon stockings to television; from seedless grapes to a magazine printed in Braille for the blind-all began as an idea.
Most of our ideas come from someone else. Where does the someone else get them? Is there any way we can get an idea, better yet, a succession of ideas, by ourselves? Yes, there is a way.
Developing an idea is much like developing an invention. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the great painter and founder of the Royal Academy, tells us that invention is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory.
Accordingly, the idea searcher explores human experience and thought-history, psychology, science-anything and everything for analogies and stepping stones for the imagination. The more extensive our acquaintance with the work of those who have excelled, the more extensive will be our own ingenuity.
Then when an image comes to us, we can use it, juggle with it, be receptive to its possibilities, not simply hold it isolated as an amusing or interesting curiosity, but have it as a basis for experiment. Most of us get ideas that we do not develop in this way, and nothing ever comes of them.
Some people have their heads full of so-called bright ideas all the time, but only too often they are merely half-baked notions. The techniques suggested herein should improve the quality of the ideas so they really become workable and useful. Practicing better methods need not mean getting more ideas when one is prolific already, but it should mean getting better ones. To be receptive to the creative impulse, one must have a certain
discontent, a confidence in the potential ideal, a sense that betterment is always possible. This gives birth to constructive curiosity.
We are all inventors in minor things. The one who would improve a thing must realize its present qualities and its possibilities; must recognize that the possibility of perfection outweighs the probability of imperfection. We do not, for example, believe that violin strings have been made to create horrible discord, although the probability of discord is far greater than that of harmony, and for one who can play the violin, there are thousands who cannot.
To get an idea, observation is the first requisite, analysis the second, faith the third. Without observation, the need or opportunity would not be recognized. Without analysis, the method would not be devised. Without faith, the impulse would be lacking. The successful effort, then, combines a physical, a mental and a spiritual activity-in other words, a union of all our available powers directed toward a single goal.
Perhaps this sounds harder than it is. How does one create in nature? One plants a seed. One allows it to germinate. Surely that is a simple pattern. But it involves the same three points Observation. You see a need or a chance to grow a certain thing. Analysis. You do not plant a grapefruit seed to grow a beet. You consider the conditions and other factors. Faith. If you did not expect a grapefruit plant to grow from a grapefruit seed, you wouldn’t bother in the first place.
We must keep a sense of direction toward our goal. A traveler in Rome asked someone, “If I go straight from here, how far is it to the Vatican?” “Well,” was the reply, “if you keep straight on the way you are going, it is nearly 25,000 miles, but if you turn around and walk the other way, it is about a mile and a half.” In the production of ideas there is a similarly straight road, a definite method, so clear that it may be called a technique.