Curbing the exuberance of ‘new’ ideas!

English: Thinking, bright idea.
Bright Ideas?

The next time some self-promoting wannabee comes bounding through your door, hold them at arm’s length and make them pause for breath for a moment. What they see as the ‘best thing since sliced bread‘ isn’t necessarily so…

In fact it is often little more than a vain attempt to reinvent the wheel and consequently, you’d be well advised to stem their enthusiasm. Temper all the marketing rhetoric, suspect academic superiority, along with the business speak and buzzword bollocks by saying –  “it might be a good idea but are you confident it’s yours and is it actually new?”

It’s hardly surprising that the ‘sliced bread’ hyperbole, a use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech, actually originated in America. It is used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but that doesn’t mean you take it literally. It’s just another reflection of the now common OTT methodology in much of business practice.

America is a nation that conceives many odd inventions for getting somewhere but it can think of nothing to do once it gets there…(Will Smith – American Actor)

Tread carefully with ‘sliced bread’ ideas, they should be examined with suspicion and caution. Only to be adopted, if there really is some worth to your organisation, once you are confident about the benefits. Trust me, along with society as a whole, I’ve suffered from thirty years of lack lustre ‘sliced bread’ ideas in the police!

OK, so  it’s probably good to harness ideas and embrace innovation from wherever it originates, that’s how we move forward with greater knowledge and experience than we previously possessed. Confucius said; “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” highly important when you consider; we often tend to think we know all there is to know when often, we actually know and truly understand very little sometimes, especially when youthful exuberance comes into play. A factor highlighted by Oscar Wilde when he said “I am not young enough to know everything.”

Albert Einstein once said “the only source of knowledge is experience” and, “if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” It is comical that so many surround a thought or idea with masses of complication and fancy words that often mean very little in real terms. Many of these words are used to disguise origination and/or pass off an old idea as new one, as if it were their own. But the use of other people’s thoughts ideas and experience is actually not such a bad thing, if done correctly.

Ross Montandon, one of the highest qualified Canoe & Kayak coaches in the UK wrote it in a recent article – The Evolution of Knowledge– “It is an odd idea that every concept is completely original.” He is right, they often aren’t.

Regular followers of my blog and/or Twitter account may well have seen my comment describing the content of the feed – “Thoughts are mine developed from others!” Most ideas aren’t pure and new, neither have them come from a mere thought or notion that is “the first way of thinking, living or doing.” As Montandon pointed out in his article, there are exceptions but very few can claim their idea was actually the first.

As with music, a form of expression that has been around for hundreds of years, the basics of the musical process dictate that it is almost impossible for a piece to be totally original and new. There are only five lines on a musical stave and seven basic notes within an octave, yes these can be manipulated and presented in a differing order however; the passage of time suggests that any combination has probably been tried before, at least in some form or other. I’m not suggesting that Bob Marley or Eric Clapton plagiarised Ludwig van Beethoven or Johann Sebastian Bach, they just applied a different personal slant on the basic process.

The evolution of knowledge or ideas is what keeps things moving on. Some call it theft or stealing. I disagree: it’s development and innovation.. (Ross Montandon)

It is well understood that any form of plagiarism, particularly in academic and business circles, or even music, is rightly taboo however; is it so wrong to formulate your methods from the ideas and experience of others? Like Montandon I would say not, for those who acknowledge and learn by the experience others, actually ease the severity of their own learning curve.

Whilst many of us continually try to harness the racehorse of innovation, with a common desire to always be at the pinnacle of our game, we tend to lose sight of the past. We suffer from a poor understanding of our social and organisational history in many respects, not least within the business environment. Many of us posses very little cognisance of what has been tried and tested before, let alone what does or doesn’t work. It’s a main cause of our cyclic business world, the proverbial wheel keeps getting reinvented. As Einstein intimated, ‘experience’ is just as important, if not more so, than simply ‘ideas’ alone.

Likening the formulation of ideas and methods to kids with Playdough, Montandon suggests we should all take them, play with them and then create something wonderful from them, using the ideas of other’s isn’t “theft it’s flattery.”

We should not be secretive about our knowledge, we should pass the torch, and let others in on what you’re doing, that way you will further your knowledge as well as helping others…(Ross Montandon)

The major problem with al this is; the new generation, in whatever walk of life, rarely listen to those from the previous generations, the ones they could actually learn so much from. If only they were prepared to give it a go sometimes?

So, the next time you’re ‘excited’ about offering up your latest ‘new’ idea, go away and think again – your boss has probably heard it all before – remember, even ‘sliced bread’ is now one hundred years old!

One thought on “Curbing the exuberance of ‘new’ ideas!

  1. This is all true Dave. Einstein wasn’t even the first to relativity and his work was a painstaking synthesis of Maxwell’s great equations and then conflicting experimental results. Most of what we label new is as fresh as a dead daisy. New fashions and management fads are my least favourite old things pretending to be new. Economics is as new as The Emperor’s New Clothes. Working out how to stop being ripped off by the same old dodges might be new.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.