A few thoughts on the genesis of ideas

Haven’t you ever had one of those moments, where suddenly, out of nowhere, this idea pops up. This “brilliant” thought, you think, one which you have never had before, and which right there and then appears with clarity?
aha-momentWell, I haven’t had many of these. And if I ever did, I systematically made sure that it happened outside of the time or place dedicated to that sort of activity. I would typically have been swimming, watching the bottom of the pool, counting strokes and trying to keep track of laps. Or maybe I would have been on a solitary bike ride, enjoying the fresh air and the ever pleasurable tension in my legs pushing on the pedals. Maybe it would take shape whilst I am attending a concert, enjoying the music. Why there and then? It’s not like I can pull my laptop out and start taking notes or acting on the idea. But then I get home and it’s all gone, no more clarity, just the vague souvenir of what could have been one of those “A-ha” moments.

Sometimes it is not even that clear. One just feels the start of an idea, with the intimate conviction that is it going to be perfect, exactly what one is striving for. Then nothing. Gone, just like that.


If you think a little bit about where our ideas come from, you will most certainly agree that they do not come from the sound of an apple falling from a tree. Ideas are just the conscious “materialization” of a long thought process. They grow, we play with them, we feed them without even knowing it, and one day they show up, unexpectedly. We humans like to identify moments. Everything lies in a moment, doesn’t it? I think we prepare ourselves for those moments, so much so that all we do and experience contributes in one way or another to what happens in this moment. Then comes the challenge of acting on this moment, as it may be but a small opening through the window of our thought process, through which we are allowed to be made aware of the idea. Think of those Nobel prizes ideas and revolutionizing inventions you had a glimpse on, before it disappeared forever, because you weren’t ready for it, or you did not dare act on it, and take it for what it was: an idea worth exploring, and eventually sharing. Ok, I stole that one from TED, but check this talk: Where do ideas come from, by Steve Johnson.

kids forestToday was one of those rare days, where I saw through the fog to grasp this one idea, as I was walking in the forest with the family. I am going to hold on to it. Coming home, I had to write it down and toy with it a bit more, share it, in order to see more of its facets, shape it even further now that I was holding it.

Will it ever see the real light of day remains to be seen, but it did light up something for me at least. And I will keep enjoying the small hikes in the forest with the kids, as they seem to make our brains far more productive and fertile for new ideas.


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