The Idea Book | Quotes

Posted on April 26, 2017


Fredrik Härén. The Idea Book.

“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” – Walter Lippmann

“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” – George Lois

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

Make a habit of asking yourself, “What other ways are there of solving this problem?” (22)

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

Describe something in your organization that is currently impossible, but which will soon become possible to achieve. Describe the effect it will have when the impossible becomes possible. (26)

“A thing is not right because we do it. A method is not good because we use it. Equipment is not the best because we own it.” – John Aldair

Come up with a new word to describe your project, problem or your suggested solution to a problem. (37)

Take two ideas and put them together to see what happens. This often creates a more interesting idea than the two original ideas individually. Then combine three different ideas. Or four. Or two new ones… (40)

“A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?” – Albert Einstein

Which metaphor is your line of business based upon? Can you re-write this metaphor to change its meaning, and by doing so, can you use this new metaphor to develop your business? (51)

“Philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point however is to change it.” – Karl Marx

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage

How would you design a course to teach people to ignore existing knowledge? (69)

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein

“One should never impose one’s views on a problem; one should rather study it, and in time a solution will reveal itself.” – Albert Einstein

“Every fool can see what is wrong. See what is good in it!” – Winston Churchill

“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.” – David M. Ogilvy

“The prediction I can make with the highest confidence is that the most amazing discoveries will be the ones we are not today wise enough to foresee.” – Carl Sagan

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

“How I was able to discover the law of gravity? By thinking of it continuously.” – Isaac Newton

“There is a natural opposition among men to anything they haven’t thought of themselves.” – Barnes Walles

The creativity process:

  1. Collect information.
  2. Organize your material.
  3. Let your subconscious absorb the information.
  4. Come up with an idea.
  5. Evaluate or carry out the idea.

“Staying loose, allowing yourself the freedom to ramble, opening yourself up to the outside influences, keeping a flexible mind willing to entertain all sorts of notions and avenues–this is the attitude that is most appropriate for the start of any project where the aim is to generate something new.” (101)

“One should recognize and manage innovation as it really is; a tumultuous, somewhat random, interactive learning process linking a worldwide network of knowledge sources to the subtle unpredictability of customers’ end uses.” – James Brian Quinn

The barometer and the house

How many ways are there of measuring the height of a house?

A teacher once set this as a test question: How can you measure the height of a house with a barometer? The teacher wanted the students to say that you measure the air pressure on the ground and then the air pressure at the top of the house. Then, by using a formula, you can work out the height. One student, however, thought that this was too simple, so he suggested the following: “If I were to measure the height of a house, I would climb up onto the roof and lower the barometer tied to a piece of string until it reached the ground.  I would then measure the length of the string.” The teacher marked this as wrong.

But our friend, the obstinate student, was not wrong. After all, he succeeded in measuring the height of the house with a barometer. The student did not give in; he asked the teacher to give him another chance to answer the question.

This time, he wrote: “If I were to measure the height of a house, I would climb up onto the roof and drop the barometer from there. I would time the process to see how long it takes for the barometer to reach the ground. From this, I could calculate the height of the house.”

Once again, the teacher gave him zero. This time, the student suggested: “I would climb up  the stairs in the house and on the way up, I would take measurements against the wall. On reaching the top, I would multiply the number of times I used the barometer by its length and then I could work out how tall the house is.”  The student was told off again.

“Maybe the teacher is expecting a more mathematical answer,” he thought. His next ideas was this. “I would place the barometer next to the house and measure its shadow. Then, I would measure the height of the barometer and the house’s shadow in order to work out the height of the house.” The teacher didn’t like this answer either!

By now the student was so fed up that he wrote: “I would go to the house, knock on the door and say to the occupant, ‘If you don’t tell me how tall your house is, I’ll beat you to death with my barometer!’”

According to an email circulating around the Internet, the student in question was Nils Bohr, a Danish Nobel Prize winner.  As another Nobel prize winner, Linus Pauling, once said, “The best way to get a good ideas is to have lots of ideas.” And, of course, it is just this ability to look for several answers to a question that many Nobel prize winners have in common. (104-105)

Think again

Entice out more ideas. When you think that you have thought of enough ideas, then sit back down and come up with ten more. (112)

“It’s ironic that companies pay CEO’s millions upon millions to unlock shareholder wealth, but seem incapable of funneling six and seven figure rewards to people who can actually create new wealth.” – Gary Hamel

“So many of today’s management actions such as reengineering and restructuring are based on a deductive kind of thinking. They aim to improve what is. At best, they help a company catch up, but not get on top. They do not lead an organization to develop new hypotheses and create new knowledge. Simply cutting costs and improving business processes no longer is enough.” – Dr. Ikujiro Nonaka

“Everything that can be invented has already been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, 1899

Write down ten truths about your branch — i.e. things that you are sure will never change — and then see if you can come up with an idea that tears a hole in your truth. (121)

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – Lord Kelvin, Chairman of the British Academy of Science, 1895

“Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.” – Howard Aiken

See if you can manage to listen to 50 ideas without saying anything negative about them. (126)

“One of the stepping stones to a great world-class operation is to tap into the creative and intellectual power of each and every employee.” – Harold A. Poling

“Nothing is done. Everything in the world remains to be done or done over. The greatest picture is not yet painted, the greatest play isn’t written, the greatest poem is unsung. There isn’t in all the world a perfect railroad, nor a good government, nor a sound law. Physics, mathematics, and especially the most advanced and exact of the sciences, are being fundamentally revised. Chemistry is just becoming a science; psychology, economics, and sociology are awaiting a Darwin, whose work in turn is awaiting an Einstein. If the rah-rah boys in our colleges could be told this, they might not all be specialists in football, parties, and unearned degrees. They are not told it, however; they are told to learn what is known. This is nothing.” – Lincoln Steffens, 1931

“Nothing is done. Everything in the world remains to be done or done over. The greatest painting has yet to be painted, the most moving play yet to be written, the most beautiful poem yet to be recited. Nowhere in the world does there exist the perfect railway, or a good government or a sensible law. Physics, mathematics and, in particular, the most advanced and exact sciences are going through fundamental reviews. Chemistry has become a science; psychology, economics and sociology are waiting for a Darwin, whose work in its turn is awaiting an Einstein. And if the arrogant, naive youths at our university could understand this, then maybe they would not all become specialists in football, drinking sprees and undeserved grades/university degrees. They should not be taught what is already known; they should not be encouraged to learn things that are already known–they are worthless.” – Lincoln Steffens, 1931 (Härén’s translation)

“In order to discover new continents, you must dare to leave your harbour.”

“Organizations cannot exist without creative destruction — there is no point in saying whether it is good or bad, it is just necessary.” – Tudur Rickards

Ignore what you know

“Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.” – Albert Von Szent-Györyi, Physics Nobel Prize Winner

What would happen if you thought ‘What would happen if…’ a little more often?

“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.” – Neil Postman

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” – Thomas J. Watson, Founder of IBM

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it is the only idea we have.” – Emil Chartier

“When I was little, my teachers criticized me for drawing outside the lines. Now my boss wonders why I can’t think outside the box.” – cartoon strip

“Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

Ideamation n. [C] the first idea that everyone thinks of.

An ideamation is never as valuable as an idea. (156)

Can you join all nine dots using no more than four strokes and without lifting your pen from the paper?

“Economists around the world are unanimous in believing that innovation is the most important element in the creation of welfare.” – Charles Edkvist, Professor at Linköping University, Sweden

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison

“If someone says that he has learnt to think, most people take it for granted that he has learnt to think logically.” – Edward De Bono

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.” – Picasso

TPM – Thoughts Per Minute. PST – People who’ve Stopped Thinking. Identify everyone with a high TPM in your organization and make sure that their skills are put to better use. Also identify those PSTs and try to wake them up from their beauty sleep. (182)

Most people do not get good ideas in groups or at the snap of a finger. Most get brilliant ideas when the brain is not disturbed by trying to think. It is our unconscious that gives us ideas; our conscious seldom comes up with anything new as it is fully occupied bringing forth things we already know and presenting them as new ideas. …may I suggest Brainfiring? Instead of focusing on getting as many ideas as possible, you work in groups to try and re-phrase the problem that needs solving in a variety of different ways. You then go home and allow the unconscious to work in peace and quiet. You meet again a week later and see what unexpected, unusual ideas have been sown in the calm after the storm. (186)

“It is better to have the philosophy of thinking more than your competitors than spending more than them.” – David Ogilvy

“Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of ‘crackpot’ than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.” – Thomas Watson

“Any business arrangement that is not profitable to the other person will in the end prove unprofitable for you. The bargain that yields mutual satisfaction is the only one that is apt to be repeated.” – B.C. Forbes

Experience is a costly and valuable treasure, but like all valuable treasures it can also stop people from thinking clearly. (200)

“Reading, at a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” – Albert Einstein

“Fact is, the first 100 years of our country’s history were about who could build the biggest, most efficient farm. And the second century focused on the race to build factories. Welcome to the third century, folks. The third century is about ideas.” – Seth Godin

Buy a dictionary. Next time you are faced with a problem, look up the key word that describes your problem and see what the word means. I promise that this will make it easier for you to generate ideas. (206)

“Man, by his essence, is a creative being. Creativity is the basic content of life and the joy of man.” – Ivan Málek

You and I are wrong more often than we think. (218)

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russel

“The day you think you know everything, then you are a danger to the company.” – Amelia Adamo, Swedish newspaper entrepreneur

“We must…become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements, we must invent and develop institutions [and societies] that are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” – Donald A Schon, Innovation theorist

To read an article from International Meats, for example, about how the terrorist attacks of September 11th affected the meat business is more rewarding than it sounds. … Go into your newsagent’s and buy three papers that you did not even know exist. (222)

“Our present problems are not primarily political or economic but are rooted in the inadequate use of our humanity, or, rather, in our persistence in using those capacities in ourselves that are no longer appropriate to the present times.” – Jean Houston, Professor of Religion and Philosophy

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Lucius Apuleius

“Very simple ideas lie within the reach only of complex minds.” – Remy De Gourmont

A croupier is standing at one of the tables, spinning a roulette wheel. After a lot of spinning, the ball comes to rest on number 7. A Man standing next to the table yells in disappointment, “No!” He then gives the croupier ten dollars. As the man has not placed any chips, the surprised croupier asks him why he gave him the ten dollars. The man replies, “I made a mental bet of ten dollars on number 19, and I lost.” The croupier sighs resignedly and takes the money.

The same procedure is repeated several times; the man gives the croupier ten dollars every time he places a mental bet and loses. Suddenly, the ball lands on number 17 and the man shouts with joy, “Yippee! I bet 10,000 dollars in my mind that the ball would land on number 17.” The croupier, of course, thinks that the man is kidding, but he is deadly serious and sues(!) the casino. His argument in court is that if the casino accepts mental bets when someone loses, then they ought to accept them when they win…

The unlikely happens: the judge rules int he man’s favour, but adds an important statement: “A casino that accepts mental bets must also pay out mental winnings. However, it is all right for a casino to pay mental winnings with mental cheques…” (234)

“The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” – Roy Z-M Blizer

“The most powerful factors in the world are clear ideas in the minds of energetic men of good will.” – J. Arthur Thomson

“It is useless to send armies against ideas.” – George Brandes

Crealogical and logical

Crealogical thinking is the opposite of logical thinking. A logical person has a well-organized desk, while a crealogical person has everything lying in big piles on the desk, but they still know where to find everything important… Crealogical can best be described as creative chaos or illogical logic. (252)

“Men who accomplish great things in the industrial world are the ones who have faith in the money producing power of ideas.” – Charles Fillmore

“A new and valid idea is worth more than a regiment and fewer men can furnish the former than command the latter.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The Egg of Columbus (Wikipedia)

Each puzzle consists of five shapes. One of them is unique and differs from the others. Which one? And above all–why?

[Click Discovering the unique (solutions) for the answers]

“It wasn’t my idea. But I don’t give a damn.” – Destiny Playback

“There is nothing in the world more powerful than an idea. No weapon can destroy it; no power can conquer it except the power of another idea.” – James Roy Smith

“Ideas are the factors that lift civilization. They create revolutions. There is more dynamite in an idea than in many bombs.” – Bishop Vincent

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen

“Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings.” – C.D. Jackson