“All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients.” – Ralph Waldo EmersonCreativity and original thinking is a large part of marketing, branding, and communication in business. But, I recently ran across the concept of “The Original Thought Theory,” which suggests that anything anyone can ever think of has already been thought by someone else or will be done so by someone in the future, i.e. no thought is original. Wow! Let’s dissect this theory for a minute. First, the reason it’s called a “theory” is because it cannot be proven to be true or false, so below is just my “original thoughts” on the topic. When researching this theory, I found an article that summed it up pretty well in four factors that should be taken into account:
1. The think pool – the total number of unique thoughts that can ever exist. This includes thoughts that have not yet been discovered or invented. So, could it be true that the greater the think pool, the less likely it is for someone else to copy your thought, hence a greater possibility that your idea really is unique?
2. Number of thoughts – the total number of thoughts one individual can have during his/her lifetime. Does increasing the number of thoughts increase the chance of the idea not being original? To get the overall picture, consider how vast the think pool is.
3. The population size – no one knows how many people have lived on Earth since the beginning, and how many will come to live before the inevitable end. Once again, as the population size increases, does the percentage also increases i.e. more chance that an idea is not original?
4. Complexity of thought – ideas have varying degrees of depth and complexity. In other words, is a more complex or tiered idea less likely to be thought by someone else?
So, what does all this mean? To me, the population as a whole should make an effort to have more “original thoughts.” Here are some suggestions for creative thinking:
- Re-think: Look at a challenge in new or unusual ways.
- Visualize: Picture your problem and its solutions.
- Produce: Don’t be lazy. Get busy.
- Combine: Make new combinations– in considering options, put them all on the table to find grains of truth or possibility. Then refine.
- Form relationships: Make connections – add text as to why concepts connect.
- Think in opposites: Often extremes present middle ground where solutions lie.
- Fail: Learn from experience and think as if you have eliminated a bad solution toward finding a good one.
- Brainstorm: join other people in a brainstorming session.