My kingdom for a good idea

If I’m asked to participate in one more brainstorming session involving flip chart paper and colored dots, I’ll run from the room screaming. This time-worn planning strategy may have generated a usable idea or two for some organization at sometime, but I’ve yet to see it. Which probably explains my euphoria upon discovering the marvelous video “Where good ideas come from.”

At last, a fresh voice crying in the wilderness of organizational planning. At last, innovation without the endless, episodic rounds of color-coded group-think.  

Here are a few sips from Johnson’s cup of wisdom:  

People like to condense their stories of innovation down to shorter time frames. They want to tell the story of the “eureka” moment. . . But in fact, if you go back and look at the historical record, it turns out that a lot of important ideas had very long incubation periods. . . a lot of ideas linger on, sometimes for decades, in the back of people’s minds.

Johnson refers to this as the “slow hunch.”

More often than not, great ideas are cobbled together from whatever parts that happen to be around nearby. We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into something new. That’s really when innovation happens.

Johnson labels this a “liquid network.”

We often talk about the value of protecting intellectual property, you know building barricades, having secretive R&D labs, patenting everything we that we have, so that those ideas will remain valuable, and people will be incentivized to come up with more ideas and the culture will be more innovative. But I think there’s a case to be made that we should spend at least as much time, if not more, valuing the premise of connecting ideas and not just protecting them.

 Johnson concludes his presentation with a particularly prophetic word: chance favors the connected mind. And maybe, once in a while, the connected dots.

(If the Stephen Johnson video didn’t load on your browser, you can find it at


  1. Cynthia Wells says:

    Very nice to read your blog. I fully agree that the flip chart and colored dot methods are tired, and it was nice to consider your succinct perspective as to why they are not only passe but also ineffective.

  2. Thanks, Cynthia, for taking time to post a response. I hope you also had time to look at the Stephen Johnson video. It is brimming with wonderful advice — plus it is a magnificent example of how to use PowerPoint.

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