What Were You Thinking? How Great Ideas Are Born

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Dell’s popular 2014 marketing campaign, Beginnings, highlights the genesis of some the great ideas of the last 40 years. From Skype’s birth in a high-rise apartment to Dropbox’s eureka moment on Interstate 95, the computer giant suggests that good ideas can come from anywhere. It’s a great concept, but is it right?

Malcolm T. Gladwell, author of Blink, believes it takes 10,000 hours of practice to stimulate a flash of genius. But, hey, an old Nescafé ad tells us, “great ideas come from great coffee.”

In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson says, “The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.”

A recent Wall Street Journal article entitled, “How Entrepreneurs Come Up With Great Ideas,” adds to the debate. The article is subtitled: “There is no magic formula. But that doesn’t mean there’s no formula at all.”

The journal article quotes David Cohen, co-founder and CEO of TechStars:Ideas for startups often begin with a problem that needs to be solved. And they don’t usually come while you’re sitting around sipping coffee and contemplating life. They tend to reveal themselves while you’re hard at work on something else.”

Some experts say the best ideas come when you’re not thinking at all. Others believe brainstorming sessions can create that magic spark.

The takeaway: It seems Dell is right after all: good ideas can come from anywhere.

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