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Where Do Great Ideas Come From

Years ago, I had e-mail correspondence with someone I barely know who asked if I ever watched The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (the show is no longer in production, but there is a book). I responded that I had not and took note because usually when I get a tip like that, I can learn something. I followed through by watching some episodes, and I enjoyed the show pretty well. 

And here is the part I needed to see. I noticed an interesting phenomenon. 

On the show, one of the main things Donny Deutsch does is to get insight from each person featured about exactly where and how they got their big idea. Of course, that makes total sense because it is in the show’s name, after all, and Donny is trying to educate and coach people in his audience to find their own big idea and go for it. So it seems that guests really would expect that question. 

Nevertheless, each time he asks it, the person pauses for a moment and looks as if they are processing the question and aren’t sure what to say. As if they are saying to themselves, “Hey, that is a good question, where did that idea come from?” 

Seeing that scenario play out time and again led me to this interpretation: The question is difficult because when people have a great idea, they are fully engaged in whatever they’re studying at the time inspiration strikes. All they remember is that they were busy following their noses, uncovering clues, letting one thing lead to another, and it all seemed obvious at the time…until they get this question anyway. That is when it becomes apparent they were just in their creative flow, and it’s hard to explain.

Creativity is something that we all have if we can open to it. The first step for someone sitting around wanting ideas but having none is to remove all barriers to getting into the flow of creativity. Creativity can’t occur while sitting in judgment of every thought that pops into your head. A person has to open their mind and be comfortable with the creative process. Some people are very good at tapping into their creativity consistently; others might need to remember to let go and play a little.

Begin by exploring things that catch your eye. Follow your nose a bit and see what happens. Once you have gathered some info, give yourself a rest and see what your wonderfully creative mind cooks up. When you feel a little kick of enthusiasm, you may be on to something.