Original ideas

What does it mean, an ‘original idea’?

‘Not derived from something else’ or ‘preceding all others in time’, or ‘showing a marked departure from previous practice’?

In dictionaries we can find all three definitions of the word ‘original’.

An idea which would not be derived from something else would be like a unicorn.

An idea which precedes all others in time (in other words, is new), but which is also clearly derived from something else? Happens all the time. Just like an idea which shows a marked departure from previous practice.

It all depends on the specific definition of a ‘truly original idea’ upon which we will agree.

I think the first definition is pointless. There is no point trying to prove to others that we only used our own brain and that everything happened inside our own brain, with no outside influence or inspiration. Apart from the fact that we might never be able to do that, it’s very selfish and its purpose is to depreciate the contribution of others.

The second and third definitions, on the other hand, make perfect sense. We can almost always say who was the first person to come up with this new idea (who used something for the first time, who developed something which didn’t exist before, who found a new intersection, or who as a first person solved a particular problem).

That it was derived from something else? That some other product/ idea/ thing/ thought inspired this person? Does it mean that our invention/ idea/ product/ thought lacks originality? Of course not. We all get inspired all the time. Our brains are constantly looking for ways to connect the dots. That’s how they operate. Without this ability we wouldn’t be able to come up with any idea.

So I’d go as far as saying that were it not for our brains’ ability to be inspired and connect and move around pieces of information (picked by them from the outside world) we would never be able to produce even a single idea.


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