How do you curate or collect ideas?
Society has it all backwards as it permits schools to churn out multitudes of young people who can’t do the basic skills and aren’t equipped to take on the most remedial challenges of life. A proper education ought to include preparation for meeting life’s challenges (and there’s no end of those, are there?). Of course, that is a whole other topic and challenge.
Preparation opens a lot of doors of opportunity. The trouble with opportunity is that it always looks bigger after it has gone than while it was still approaching. It’s much better to prepare before the opportunity presents itself than to have an opportunity thrust upon you and be unprepared. If you feel discouraged because a great door of opportunity or blessing has passed you by, don’t despair too long. Another is sure to open up. As we look at collecting ideas, you’ll see how many opportunities are floating around you. If we look too long at the closed door, with longing in our hearts for what could have been, then we might miss the other door that has been opened before us.
But when those who feast every day try to tell those who only have eaten rice every day what a true feast is like, it’s like talking to a wall. People don’t know that the feast exists. They are even suspicious that you are speaking the truth because it’s outside the bounds of their experience. Hopefully, at some point in their lives, these people will learn that they can feast daily and will start to wonder how they can partake. The more ideas you collect, the greater your probability of experiencing a feast.
As a budding entrepreneur or innovator, your livelihood or success depends on your ability to see new ideas, collect them, analyze them, think deeply about the best ones, perhaps combine them into a better idea that works for your situation and then evaluate the end result. The first step is the seeing and the collecting.
You will see infinitely better if your mind is looking for these ideas, both consciously and sub-consciously. If you can put your RAS on alert, it will help you see great ideas on auto-pilot.
Conwell’s story is fascinating. As we learn how to gather ideas, do the following:
1. Read the Wikipedia article first to understand Russell Conwell.
2. Read the Acres of Diamonds. It can be found here and is in the public domain. The book is really a transcript of his speech and is about 55 pages long. The story I want you to focus on goes from about p. 18 to 74.
A long time ago, a thief broke into a large castle and the stole the king’s beautiful and expensive sword. Its hilt was covered with gold, silver and the most expensive jewels and dragons were etched upon the blade. Quickly and quietly, the thief ran to the nearest city and sold it in the marketplace. He then returned to his friends to brag about his success. His best friend asked how much money he had received.
“Ten pieces of silver,” the thief replied.
His friend was shocked. “Are you telling me that you only got ten pieces of silver for that famous beautiful sword?”
The thief was confused. “Is there a number higher than ten?”
The point is that our ignorance prevents us all from realizing our potential. In the case of the thief in the story above, a little education would have helped the thief immeasurably. Education, then, is the foundation of all preparation for life. I’m not just talking about the education you get from going to the local high school or university. Education is a way of life—a life-long learning skill.
One of the goals of education is not to just grow in knowledge but to become equipped for action. Innovation depends on an ever-increasing knowledge base. To put it more plainly, you can’t innovate and solve problems that are too difficult for others unless you know stuff that other people don’t know. Part of growing in knowledge and skills about topics and subjects is to gather, sift, organize, evaluate and synthesize information. To start, we need a framework or a strategy for collecting ideas.
Let’s switch analogies for a minute. I believe with all my heart that life offers a banquet. Some people who eat only rice every day start to become connoisseurs of rice. Many Japanese can tell you which rice is good or bad and even what region a certain rice will come from. Others don’t know much about rice, but instead experience a daily banquet. For them, the table is piled high with a rich assortment of meats, vegetables, fruit, delicious breads, desserts galore ... and rice. It’s like going to a good buffet at a great restaurant.
Ideas and opportunities are literally dropping around us every minute. There is no need to start thinking that you have to travel to a big city to start a great business, or believe that people who live in one city will do better than people who live in another. Every city, every town, every village is filled with opportunity. You simply have to open the eyes of your imagination and look. Here’s a way to start.
The Reticular Activating System
Have you ever heard of something called the Reticular Activating System (or RAS)? It’s a part of your brain that serves as a filter for what is conscious in your mind and what is sub-conscious. Basically, the RAS serves two functions for you.
1. It allows your brain to automatically filter out information that is not necessary to consciously think about. For example, maybe sometime last week you walked or rode your bike to a friend’s house. You were probably thinking about something as you went, but you probably weren’t thinking about balance, temperature, humidity, colors, every sound around you, every smell, or every other person on the street. That would be information overload. So your RAS filters all that out for you and allows you to concentrate on one or two things at a time.
2. Your RAS also works in the opposite manner. For example, if you have a favorite blue shirt that you love to wear and on a Friday night you wear it to a party, you’ll likely notice right away other people wearing blue shirts at the party. Or, if you have a favorite type of car—perhaps a red convertible Corvette—then your eye will easily see that type of car on the street. It’s as if your mind is drawn to it like a magnet! You can’t not see it!
That’s a powerful concept, especially when it comes to gathering ideas.
Section 1: The Power of the Idea
Ex 4: Curate (gather) Ideas
According to Wikipedia, Russell Herman Conwell (February 15, 1843 – December 6, 1925) was an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, lawyer, and writer. He is best remembered as the founder and first president of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Pastor of The Baptist Temple, and for his inspirational lecture, Acres of Diamonds.