Where do ideas come from?

Great ideas are built on a base of hard work and many small insights from a range of observations

Founding Fuel

[Image by MeHe from Pixabay] 

Dear friend,

There is no such thing as one big idea when it comes to innovation and breakthroughs. Instead, “it’s many small insights coming together that bring big ideas into the world,” wrote Scott Berkun in his book The Myths of Innovation.

He likened the innovation process to putting together a jigsaw puzzle: “When you put the last piece into place, is there anything special about that last piece…? The only reason that last piece is significant is because of the other pieces you’d already put into place. If you jumbled up the pieces a second time, any one of them could turn out to be the last, magical piece…. we feel the larger collective payoff of hundreds of pieces’ worth of work.” The “final” insight comes from a base of many years of work and many smaller insights from diverse fields coming together.

So, how does one gather those jigsaw pieces—those little insights that over time build up to a Big Idea? That’s the broad subject of our podcast with Scott Hartley, author of the bestseller The Fuzzy and the Techie.

Hartley argues that studying the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors, is not enough. You also need to study the humanities. Leaders of all the great tech companies have some technical ability to navigate our world today, but they also have an ability to take apply technology to the most meaningful human problems that exist. (This podcast is the second piece in our miniseries on the importance of the liberal arts in the digital age.)

Hartley illustrates his point of view with several examples from Silicon Valley where a melding of the liberal arts and technology is paving the way to some really interesting breakthroughs.

Three things stood out for me in this podcast:

1. The value of technology is in solving human problems and to solve human problems we fundamentally need an understanding of the social sciences, how we navigate society together, our own psychology, what we need as people and individuals.

2. Liberal arts is not just humanities. It is about stretching the human mind by exposing it to many subjects—including logic, mathematics, biology, history, geography, and literature. The liberal arts is actually the study of the sciences and humanities in equal measure.

3. The irony is, as automation becomes more prevalent in routine and rote tasks, the only thing that gives us a competitive advantage against machines are those very human skills that we think of as somewhat irrelevant.

On our special learning project MasterClass on TransformingSystems with Arun Maira, we are now moving to the second phase where we invite you to take the class and share your thoughts on LinkedInFacebook, or the comments section for any of the essays here. Here’s a note on the Public Class Room & Why You Should Join the Conversation, by Arun Maira.

We look forward to your participation.

Have a great week!

Sveta Basraon

For Team Founding Fuel

Featured Story

‘The value of technology is in solving meaningful human problems’

In this podcast Scott Hartley, bestselling author of ‘The Fuzzy and the Techie’, talks about why tech knowledge is necessary, but not sufficient for entrepreneurs. They also need a broader curiosity about the world around them. (By Charles Assisi. Play Time: 40 mins)

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[Photograph by SuSanA Secretariat under Creative Commons]

All discovery, invention, innovation are outcomes of curiosity, of asking all manner of questions. (By R Sriram)

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About the author

Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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