Where Good Ideas Come From: An IterateOn Discussion

Posted by Maia Rocklin

Did you know that there is an actual mathematical formula that can predict the ‘creativity’ in a city?  

IterateOn’s event, Where Good Ideas Come From, focused on the creation of ideas and what type of environment is needed to cultivate these ideas. Many key concepts discussed were inspired by a book under the same name, written by Steven Johnson.

Mike Frazzini, Chief of Data Science and the Evaluation Cloud at Iterate, led the discussion supported by Jon Nordmark, CEO and co-founder of Iterate, and Brian Sathianathan, Serial Entrepreneur and co-founder at Iterate. This event consisted of a presentation followed by a Q&A discussion where participants posed thoughtful questions about building a culture of ideation.

In this post, we will recap the highlights of the presentation and the discussion.

The Six Patterns of Ideation

Steven Johnson analyzed 200 of humankind’s greatest ideas, discovering, inventions, and innovations, spanning across 600 years. Some examples of what he studied include the printing press, calculus, the laws of gravity, and RNA splicing. As a result, Johnson formulated six key patterns to the ideation process.

1. Liquid Networks: These are networks with dense and dynamic connections, storage, and spillover for ideas. For example, a city is a liquid network. A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town is 150 times more innovative. The more connections, spillover, and dynamic reconfiguration, the more possibility for innovation.  The neurons in the human brain are another example of the Liquid Network, with millions of synapses firing in different patterns, creating new thoughts.

2. The Slow Hunch: Many great ideas start out as slow hunches. When many ideas first take shape, they are in partial and incomplete forms. However, when these hunches start to connect with other hunches and simmer over time, a great idea can emerge. An example of this is the World Wide Web. The idea was not hatched as a single, sudden lightbulb; instead, it was a process where over 10 years, connections and influences from many sides came together.

3. Serendipity: Innovation can prosper when hunches can serendipitously connect and recombine with other ideas. Make no mistake, though, serendipity is not just “good luck.” Cultivating serendipity takes preparation and persistence. Some ideas to create a space for serendipity include taking creative walks, making time to rest and reflect, and asking customers for ideas. There’s a reason you do your best thinking while walking the dog or a long soak in the tub– your mind can wander, you can ruminate– your creativity has space.

4. Error: There are two types of errors, false positives and false negatives. These errors are expected, predetermined, and measured. Though errors may seem undesirable, they can drive you to unlock new doors to new ideas. When researchers attempted to develop a heart monitoring device, they accidentally ended up creating the Pacemaker, an outcome of failed experiments. Post-it notes were initially a “failed” adhesive that didn’t stick strongly. Penicillin grew in a petri dish that was erroneously left out overnight.

5. Exaptation: This is where an idea is developed for a specific use but gets hijacked for a completely different function. The printing press uses many of the wine press’s features. To make durable clothes for gold diggers, Levi Strauss reworked and repurposed the touch canvas of ships’ sails in the San Francisco harbor.

6. Platforms: For great ideas to take root and thrive, they need systems and ecosystems that openly circulate and recycle ideas, allowing these connections to form.

These six patterns are common to the creation of great ideas. In building a space that accepts and cultivates these patterns, over time, ideas have the opportunity to form and produce massive rewards.

Iterate’s Solutions for Ideation

At Iterate, we have created an AI-powered ecosystem to cultivate these six patterns. Our ecosystem leverages both evaluation and execution. Together, these help companies to capture hunches and build them into great ideas. The three parts of our evaluation cloud are idea orchestration, trend intelligence, and solution curation. The first step is to build branded and engaging intake forms. Customers can then use these to create liquid networks, serendipitous connections, and slow hunches. We also deploy AI to track over 1.1 million startups in order to give our members a wide view of the ever-evolving landscape of ideas.

For execution, we have a low-code middleware called Interplay that allows teams to deploy their ideas as rapidly as possible– even for those who are not developers or dedicated coders. We want to provide an actual software platform that accelerates innovation and promotes a culture of ideation.

Highlights of Q&A

How do you address lack of executive support and funding?

Frazzini stated that there has to be a culture of ideation and openness to begin with. Ideas can lead to more work, but that’s where the opportunity lies. There may be a thousand operational things that executive staff and employees need to be doing, but it is also important to have a constant ideation flow for improvement. Sathianathan expanded upon this, adding that a snowball effect can also have benefits. When you have a great idea, get a colleague of yours working on it as well. Allow it to snowball. When people start talking about something, others pay attention.

What are some good ways to encourage ideation amongst employees?

Extending a hand to all people in the company that their ideas are wanted and welcome is a great way to start, Nordmark commented. Let employees know that you want their ideas and want them to participate, and show them that they’re valued. It is equally important then, as they begin to contribute, to respond to those people. A lack of responding to ideas could lead to a loss in momentum.

Closing Remarks

We hope that this event helped to unveil the process of ideation and how to cultivate the next great idea.

We would love to see you at our next IterateOn event. Each event is an opportunity to open up dialogue and learn from experts on a variety of contemporary and future-forward topics. Sign up by emailing [email protected], tracking us on Twitter @IterateAI, or check out our full calendar of upcoming events at https://www.iterate.ai/events.

Check out what you missed out on at one of our previous webinar events: How Sensors are Changing the World.


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