What is an IDEA?

There’s no single formula for a great talk, but there is a secret ingredient that all the best ones have in common. TED Curator Chris Anderson shares this secret — along with four ways to make it work for you. Do you have what it takes to share an idea worth spreading?

More on ideas and creativity – by Jean Houston

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They say that ideas are a dime a dozen. They are not. Ideas are diamonds, and they are stocked and stored in the great structure that we call our mind-body system. Beneath the surface crust of ordinary consciousness, we are all filled with ideas and associations linking with other ideas–the very stuff of evolution moving in us to emerge as innovation.

Our deeper mind is making associations all the time.
It’s just that we generally don’t inhabit enough of ourselves to become aware of them. What is it about people who do inhabit more of themselves? Why is it that they can take things from the outer world, put them together with things from the inner world, and create something new?
Part of the secret of creativity is learning to look at things in different ways. Children are very good at this, as their minds have not yet hardened into set patterns.

You may have heard of the little girl who had been trying for days to insert a rope-belt into her pajamas. One hot day she came in from playing and went to the freezer to get an ice-cube. Looking at the ice- cube, it occurred to her that if she wet the rope and froze it into a horseshoe shape, she could slide it through the open band of her pajamas.

When most of us tramp through the fields and get burrs on our pants, we pull them off, being careful not to let them stick to our fingers. But one man looked in a different way at those prickly burrs adhering to his trousers. Not too long after, he invented Velcro. Johann Gutenberg watched grapes being pressed and thought, what if you pressed letters that way? That was the beginning of the printing press, which led to this book and everything else you read. Creativity has to do with really noticing the things that are without, letting them bloom in the great within, and being available to the possibility of novelty.

When I have studied creative people, I find that they think in many frames of mind. They don’t just ponder a problem. They sift it through images as well as words. They feel it playing upon their bodies as well as their minds. They marinate themselves in the problem until it seems that the thing they are working on has almost acquired a personality of its own. A problem percolates in the back of their minds while they go about their daily life. Things they see in the world that remind them of the idea are jotted down as grist for the creative mill.

Then, one day, something emerges as a full-fledged possibility that demands to be tried, written, told, sung about, created. Much the same process can be applied to anything you wish to accomplish. Begin by giving yourself an intention–something you want to do or discover. See this intention as an image– seen or felt, heard, touched, even tasted. Then dwell on images of future accomplishment using as many of your interior senses as you can. Soon you will find yourself sponsored by your image, activated by it, to the point that you will have the passion and the purpose to do something about it.