Have we all got the idea gene in us?

Facility with ideas, as in ‘Leonardo was the ideas man of all time’, or, ‘can you believe how full of ideas Marie Curie must have been to win two Nobel Prizes?’ is a quality we all admire. But it is also a quality many of us tend to be over-modest about.

Not many people will admit to being poor parents or bad drivers, but my experience is that friends and colleagues claiming above average ideas skills are very much in the minority.

Yet we are all wired to come up with ideas, share ideas, and develop ideas. How else would we be able to navigate our complicated lives over many years? How could we solve problems and spot opportunities? How could we think laterally, and surprise family and friends? It is the facility that each of us have to produce and embrace ideas that makes us what we are. It is a skill we all have – both to create, and to work with others to make them better.

Adam Grant in Originals says that anyone can have great ideas, but warns that when we’ve developed an idea, we’re typically too close to our own tastes and too far from the audience’s tastes to evaluate it accurately. He writes that the biggest barrier to originality is not idea generation. It’s idea selection.

In her book In your Creative Element, Claire Bridges asked, ‘Can anyone work in a creative role or does it take a natural talent?’ Her book offers detailed training in creativity, and she concludes, ‘Perhaps creativity isn’t necessarily a gift that you either possess or do not, but rather something that can be developed and expanded, can be instilled in teams and departments, and can be developed to drive businesses to further success’.

I have written this book to convince my readers that each of you has built-in idea skills, which can be significantly enhanced by inspiration, training and experience. It is an urban myth that being an ‘ideas person’ is a highly differentiated ability, confined to very few people. Having been researching the amazing world of ideas for some time now for this book, I am convinced it is untrue.

Michael Michalko in Cracking Creativity agrees, ‘if you have the intention of becoming more creative in your work and personal life and apply the thinking strategies in this book, you will become more creative. You may not become another da Vinci or Einstein, but you will become much more creative than someone without the intention or knowledge. There is no way of knowing how far these things can take you. We live in a world that offers no guarantees, only opportunities’.

He was talking about the strategies in his book. But hopefully the optimistic hope applies to the ones in The Very Idea as well.