The Power of Ideas

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I’ve been talking a lot about ideas lately. I love ideas. I love coming up with them, I love watching others come up with them, I love seeing them brought to fruition. It’s been said that, in business, nothing happens until somebody sells something. That may be true, but you know what? In virtually everything—business included—nothing happens until somebody has the idea for it. Look around you. Everything you see (at least everything human-made), from the shoes on your feet to that episode of Lost that you’re watching, is the result of an idea. It’s the product of a human brain exercising its creativity.

And that’s great if you happen to be one of the fortunate people who were born creative. People like Leonardo da Vinci, Picasso, or a couple of guys from Liverpool named Lennon and McCartney. Yeah, it really would be great to be born creative. But, let’s be honest, what percentage of people really are “born creative”?

100%. Really.

Several years ago some researchers decided to put this to the test. They decided (or, to be consistent, they had an idea) to try to find out what separated “creative” people from “non-creative” people. So they got a group of “creatives” (musicians, poets, writers, artists, etc.) together, and they got a group of “non-creatives” (accountants, librarians, engineers, bankers, etc.) together, and they asked them a battery of questions. Questions like:

  • Did you have a pet as a child?
  • Did your parents read to you?
  • Do you play a musical instrument?
  • Was there music in your house when you were growing up?

They asked dozens, hundreds, of questions to see if they could find any traits that differentiated the “creatives” from the “non-creatives.” And they found one. Just one. And it was this:

The “creatives” believed that they were creative.

That’s it! They believed that they were creative. And, armed with that belief, they lived their lives differently.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo believed that they were creative. They believed in the power of their ideas. And their ideas went on to change the world.

You don’t have to be a musician, or an artist, or a poet to have innovative, creative, even revolutionary, ideas. Melvil Dewey was an assistant librarian at Amherst College when he came up with the idea for his famous Dewey Decimal System that revolutionized library science. Bette Nesmith Graham was a bank secretary when she came up with the idea for Liquid Paper. (Liquid Paper—that white paint stuff that covers up typing mistakes—has been made obsolete by computerized word processing, but trust me, it was a big deal in the 60s, 70s, and 80s! By the way, to stay true to the Beatles theme, I should mention that Bette Nesmith Graham is also the mother of Mike Nesmith, who was one of the Monkees, who were often compared (not favorably) to the Beatles. Which is a little unfair. Actually, the Beatles were fans of the Monkees; they even threw a party for the Monkees when they (the Monkees) were in England. The party is documented in the Monkees’ song Randy Scouse Git. And I think that’s enough Monkees trivia for one day.)

So what’s the take home? What do I want you to get out of all this? Just one thing; one big truth:

You are creative.

What you do with your creativity, though, is entirely up to you.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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