Ideas don’t stand alone. They have a history and a future. Knowing the history of an idea helps us to understand it. Decide where, when and how to use it. And when we think about its future we get a feel for how we might adjust it to suit our needs.
Looking at an idea in these ways can be helpful. It lets us see the potential of the idea more clearly. And helps us to think of how to use it more creatively.
Exploring where ideas come from and where they are going is fun. Trying to see how ideas are linked is interesting. And when we think intelligently about them like this it opens more options for us.
1. Think back
When solving a problem or working on a solution. Consider what came before. How did it arise? Where did it come from? Who used it? What did they use it for? How did they use it? How successful were they?
When faced with an issue. It is reassuring to think of its past. And how many people coped with it over the years. Thinking about how they coped. How they fine tuned the idea. Can give you the confidence and strength you need to solve it. And to find new ways of doing so.
Awareness of how it evolved will help you to think of new insights. Find new applications and solutions. And to see new directions and ways to move forward.
2. Think forward
Think of ways to move forward step by step. Just do it. The result may not be great. But think of it as your starting point. Work on it. Improve what needs to be improved. Gradually a satisfactory result will begin to take shape.
The present is just one moment in the evolution of an issue. Try to understand how it will develop. What does the future hold for it? How will the development of new technology effect it?
When you learn something new think about the changes and uses that are possible. Think of the new idea as a beginning. Try to discover other possible and unintended uses for it. The ability to find other ways of using ideas is a great asset. All ideas can be moved forward to new levels. It is down to you to find ways of improving the ideas you are currently using.
Every topic is in the process of developing. It is not just an unconnected list of topics. It is part of a flow of ideas that build on each other. Seeing how these ideas are connected helps us to understand them. And to see creative possibilities for them.
3. What did they think
When you are dealing with an issue. Think about how people used to think about it in the past. How they think about it now. And how they will think about it in the future.
How many of our beliefs will our grandchildren see as ridiculous? Maybe just as many as we see of our grandparents beliefs. All you have to do is read the papers and look at the public demonstrations to see what issues are in a state of flux. And time could see other ones that we couldn’t even dream of being discarded by future generations.
This can help you to put things in perspective. And to let go of any unreal concerns you might have about the issue. What would happen if you were to put these concerns to one side.
4. Think of the flow
When you feel that you understand a new concept. Look back to its beginning. See what brought it to where it is now. Your understanding of the early work will be clearer. When viewed from the development of the later work. And the more advanced work is clearer when viewed from the original work.
Use this new understanding to improve your thoughts. No matter how good they are you can make them better. Assume that they can be upgraded. Your task is to find the flaws in it.
Do not expect it will be easy to do so. Dig in. Keep searching until you find a way of improving it. This kind of trouble shooting is the key to producing quality work.
We need to accept that all our thoughts have shortcomings. That we can improve on them if we work at doing so. So we need to look for opportunities for improvement and growth.
See yourself standing on the summit of your achievement. Climb higher and higher one small step at a time. These modest steps will help you to achieve what you never thought possible.
Suggested learning exercise
1. Read pages 95 to 118 0f Burger & Starbird (2012).
2 Imagine in detail how a more skilled thinker would see the flow of ideas.
3. Identify the added knowledge, understanding and previous experience an expert would use to see the flow of ideas.
4. Instead of thinking that the task of seeing the flow of ideas is going to require more concentration and effort. Identify the the knowledge, skill and strategy that would make it an easier task for you.
5. Use this knowledge, skill and strategy to see the flow of ideas.