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Kick-starter The Big Idea

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There's a difference between the creator and the consumer –one is connecting ideas, the other is connecting shops.

So my friend called me up to tell me he had a task with a four-day deadline. He had to “connect an audience of his choosing to a product or service from a global brand in a way that wasn’t possible five years ago”.

Our aim was to do two things –find ideas that would generate lots of excitement from people and also add value to their lives. What we did first was talk about some brilliant innovations –there was the pedestrian walks and jogging paths that generated electricity as people stepped on them. There was the “god of sight” in Nepal that was making people see again with his innovation. Lots of brilliant, life-changing ideas. That got us going.

By midnight, we came up with a brilliant idea –it was a kind of blood donating app. The app was going to make people donate blood and create a type network to drive the campaign (don’t ask me how, here). It was mind-blowing and exciting –the number of lives that could be saved, and money to be made, perhaps. We easily connected it to Google (don’t ask me how).

By two in the morning, we were already thinking of assembling a team to make it happen. It was a good cause, fresh and original. Or so we thought. It was the moment when the light bulb came on with so much energy it exploded.

Two-thirty. My instincts drove me to Google Play. I typed in the keywords for a search and pow, an app came up. I checked the features of the app and guess what; it was everything we thought of, almost word for word. For a moment, I believed time travel was already possible, because it felt like somehow, the developers travelled to our time and stole our idea. How callous. We went to bed broken-hearted.

First, before you get too excited about your ‘fresh’ app idea, check your nearest app store. The earlier you have your heart broken, or pumped (depending on how you see it), the better. You aren’t the only person thinking. So the earlier you get it done, the better for you.

Secondly, about originality. The golden rule about originality is that it is as real as unicorns, Santa Claus etc. Nothing is truly original. Every innovation is just an improvement from a previous one –or hundred.

Take flight for example. Yes, you just thought of the Wright brothers. We know them as the first people to fly a plane. But in truth, they were over one thousand years late for the first human flight (without sorcery of course). A man in Andalusia (now Spain), Abbas ibn Firnas, studied the flight of birds and in 887 AD, equipped with a type of glider and even bird feathers (for real), he made the first flight. Unfortunately, he didn’t plan his landing well and it cost him, in injuries. But it was a start. And everyone else built their work on that man can fly too, just as he had built his work on the flight of birds.

Jobs knew this when he said “creativity is just connecting things”. It’s the difference between the creator and the consumer –one is connecting ideas, the other is connecting shops.

Mark Twain said, “There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

That summarises everything.

You probably heard all these before, but not in this combination. Think about all the words have ever been written in English, from love letters to declarations of war. They all happened with twenty-six letters of the alphabet. How original.

As for my friend, he came up with a brilliant idea before the deadline, something to do with recycling paper and electricity (don’t ask me how, here). We know paper and we know electricity. But then, his mental kaleidoscope did the magic and made the difference, not yours.

Make your magic.


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