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On Getting Ideas

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.

Article by Estelle H. Rie
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About Asoka Selvarajah

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4 comments

  1. Dear Asoka,
    You never cease to amaze me! Where do you get such great ideas?
    I am always amazed at your brilliance of mind.
    I enjoy reading all your articles and I’m sure every one who has access to your website does.
    Keep up the good work, Asoka, I know you have helped and still help millions of readers with your incredible intelligence.
    May God bless you always for your wonderful mission on earth-enlightening the minds of people.

  2. Yes, everything that has been created started in someone’s mind as an idea. One may wonder, however, how many great ideas emerge, only to be ‘thought’, then forgotten as they had never existed.

    Ideas come and go. To avoid them getting lost, in the first place is, if I may call it that, to conceive them. That can be achieved by always having a piece of paper and pencil handy and write them down. In our electronic age even simpler methods can be employed by the use of hand-held devices.

    Once the idea has been documented, allow the unconscious to work on it and further thoughts will enrich and supplement the original one. This happens mostly without our own conscious effort. Carl Jung put it this way: “Unconscious processes are in a constant state of synthesis.”

    How this may work in practice has been demonstrated to me by a befriended scientist many years ago. He had always paper and pencil by his bedside. Disturbed by a mathematical problem he seem to have been unable to resolve for days, one morning he woke up and found the solution – in his own hand writing – on the bedside table. He reported having been totally unaware of the process.

    While such an experience is not an everyday occurrence, it shows that the unconscious never sleeps. Without our awareness it continues to sort out problems and attempts to find solutions. For a start, however, an idea has to be documented in some way in order not to get lost in our rather noisy world.

  3. Your presentation of taking an idea to fruition was a 3-step process. It included a physical, a mental, and a spiritual component. And you ended your example with the seed being planted and having faith that it would bear fruit.

    In my experience, there are 4 major components to bringing an idea conceived in the causal realm into reality, rather than 3. The fourth component is the emotional field. The emotional field generates the feeling of passion to take action. It is that passion which provides the curiosity to explore what will happen when the seed is planted. And, it is what moves us to water that seed every day while we are holding the faith that the fruit is growing into its full glory.

    Too many people stop the process where you did – planting it and not taking the action to water it or give it more sunlight when it shows us it’s ready to become more than it is at the moment. And that is where the emotional component, connected to the others, delivers the fuel to take the next step.

  4. Hello,

    Actually, the article was extracted from a book on ideas and creativity. That is probably why it is not the whole story. But I thought it was a useful prompt to get people thinking about this matter.

    Asoka

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