How are the most brilliant ideas conceived?

January 23rd, 2014, 11pm

How Are The Most Brilliant Ideas Conceived ?

Brilliant ideas seem to come from nowhere. Dmitri Mendeleev created the first periodic table after a nap. Otto Loewi woke from sleep at dawn with the basic idea of chemical – electrical transmission of nerve impulses; he had discovered the nerve transmission principle. One morning, while sitting on a park bench, Charles Townes envisioned the laser principle involving coherent oscillation of molecules. We could also bring up Einstein’s situation which he states in his journal about how he created the theory of relativity : He was at a point, where he was totally stuck. He went to his friend Michele Besso and after discourse, the perfect solution hit him. Archimedes ran in the street naked shouting eureka, after he had discovered the method for finding the volume of irregular objects; he was in a bath when it came to him.

Do the most brilliant ideas really come out of nowhere?

Are eureka experiences the only way of actually coming up with brilliant ideas or more coherent flow of thoughts? Isn’t immersing oneself in the situation at hand, learning the nuances, and providing well-thought out answers, the best way to coming up with solutions? This is true. Yet there is a point one gets to in the search to unravel a certain mystery, or come up with solutions. But this tends to be completely eluded. It takes the ability to see in a different light to come up with solutions at that stage.

Let me explain further….

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. Einstein realized, after his many experiences with solving problems, that there was a necessity for a shift in thought. He realized that in order to solve complex problems, one always needed a fresh look, a new perspective and an insight on the subject. Like Henry Ford’s engine or the Wright brothers’ first plane, or Thomas Edison’s light bulb, it took considerable effort. But the solution came only when they were able to see from another perspective, which usually tends to be an unusual leap of thought, forcing one to see completely differently.

Why is a fresh look important?

As humans we tend to set limits on what is possible in our world. Immediately we see something, we tend to define it with past experience. How do we see things differently then, when our past experience created the problem? You definitely need a new insight to make things work in a different way. It should be easy, but the associative memory, the part of our brain that helps define our world and set our beliefs, makes it difficult. It takes one’s ability to go past this part of our mind, where there are constraints to possibilities. In the stories above, you will realize it took Einstein’s conversation with Michele Besso to set him on the right path in solving the relativity problem. It took Archimedes a change of environment and a relaxing bath to figure out the mass of irregular objects, and it took Dmitri a good nap to come up with the periodic table. And the list goes on. But what has a fresh look or insight got to do with a higher consciousness?

Insight, higher level of consciousness and the miraculous still mind.

Dr. Elmer R. Gates created more than 200 patents through a very unusual method. He sat for ideas. In his personal communication room, a special room in his lab, which was completely sound proof and designed to have every light shut out, he had a table on which he kept a writing pad and a pen. Anytime he needed to come up with an idea, he will come to this room, seat himself behind the table, shut off the lights, and concentrate upon the known factors of the invention until ideas begin to flash into his mind in connection with the unknown factors of the invention. This is the method with which he created 200 patents and completed several half-baked inventions. Individuals and companies paid him substantial fees for sitting for ideas.

Franz Kafka, once said; “you need not leave your room, remain sitting at your table and listen, you need not even listen, simply wait, you need not even wait, just learn to become quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”While this may seem dubious, not thinking is actually a way to come up with ideas. Metaphysics will explain that within that gap of silence the limited mind is connected to a store of knowledge that is limitless. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have sat for a long while before starting work in his studio. All great innovators seemed to have worked with this limitless store. Leonardo Da Vinci confirmed this when he said; “there is no art where spirit and hand doesn’t work together.” Kafka seemed to have pointed out the way to conception with as much brevity as possible; Learn to sit still and the universe will unravel itself to you. Experiment with this idea. And you’ll know it’s true. The question albeit is how we make this experience more spontaneous.

Your mind is an incubator. Raw data triggers inspirations.

Joe Sugarman one of the most famous copywriters in the world in his handbook for copywriters said the mind is an incubator. After collecting all the necessary information about a product, his first copy is an outpour of all the feelings he has connected with the product, and it usually doesn’t read good. What he does next, is to leave that copy in his drawer and allow his subconscious to work with the raw data penned down. Sometimes he will be walking in a park, or having fun with his family, or it could be right after a nap, when the flow will hit him. This is when he comes up with the copy that sells. Henri Poincaré once said; “I value sleep, as a time for unconscious thought that helps me break through problems.” The mind has an ability to work with raw facts, especially at the state of rest. It is able to make sense of totally divergent ideas, connect pieces and bits of information to create brilliant ideas. This is the power of the unconscious, and the reason it is more powerful is that it works without any set limitations.

How to make your unconscious more spontaneous.

*Keep track of your of inspiration.

It is essential that you keep track of your source of inspiration. Many ingenious people know what inspires them; they have a source of inspiration. Your source of inspiration could be a particular place, mood, environment, moments, music, movie, a genre of books or just any good writing. To know this for sure, it is important you keep a journal of moments when you have an inspired thought. State in your journal the place, time, and the environment in which the idea came to you.

*No idea is bad enough.

Two totally divergent ideas, often come together to make up a wonderful idea. Make it a habit to note any idea that comes to you. Always have a small pad in hand to note the “seemingly- trivial” ideas. Great ideas usually come in bits and you can never tell which two awkward ideas can come together to make all the difference.

*Keep stuff that inspire you.

It is also a good idea to have a library where you keep stuff that inspire you. This could include an artifact, an article you clipped from a newspaper or magazine, a book, a movie, a certain track or album, just anything! Generally make it a habit to keep a store of items that inspire you in any way. These items will act as your triggers to many more wonderful ideas.

It will be interesting for you to note that many geniuses did these things. Leonardo had many notebooks in which he kept drawings and inspired thoughts. Galileo, Einstein and all the great innovators of our time did what has been suggested above. In an interview with David Adjaye, the Ghanaian-British “starchitect”, he mentioned that he had ‘junk’ that generally inspired him in a certain way. Well, that ‘junk’ is a sure way to get inspired in the near future.

Cassie said thanks.

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Samuel Alomenu

I write. I sketch. I mull over things and I think about alternatives. @sammidelali

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