How to Generate Good Ideas

Motion Graphics

Column Five

We set out to answer the question “Where do good ideas come from?” in the form of a motion graphic that would serve as a companion piece for a course we developed for Columbia University’s graduate program in Information and Knowledge Strategy (Visualization of Information). In doing so, we quickly realized that perhaps we needed to reevaluate the basis of this question before we answered it. The notion that good ideas simply come to people out of the blue didn’t satisfy us because it didn’t give adequate credit to the creative enterprise of the individual or group. Good ideas aren’t simply lying around like seashells on a beach waiting for us to pick them up, nor are they so random. We determined the better question to ask was “How are good ideas generated?” Good ideas—as we suggest in this video—are the result of the focused action that takes place in our brains. What better metaphor for this focus, we thought, than a prism? With a bit of stretching the laws of physics and a lot of imagination, we set out to craft a story about how all those bits and pieces of information that pass through our brains can become good ideas.