Sometimes it takes a random, unconnected experience to shed light on something you thought you already knew. Recently I read an interview with science writer Steven Johnson, author of the book Where Good Ideas Come From, and was struck by how his conclusions were in harmony with Thomas Power’s philosophy that we need to be “open, random and supportive” to succeed in business today.
I have seen Thomas speak on this topic a lot recently as part of the work yourBusinessChannel is doing with the Ecademy Digital School. In a nutshell, Thomas argues the days of being “closed selective and controlling” (CSC) are over. Instead moving to a digital mindset means building our social media networks as big as possible – the bigger the network, the more opportunities will flow our way.
To be honest, I have never been entirely comfortable with how this might work in practice. How many random connections can one person cope with after all? But after reading Johnson’s take on how some of history’s great innovations have been achieved, it could be time to re-evaluate.
Johnson’s theory is that far from being the result of Eureka moments, the vast majority of “big” discoveries have been achieved by taking the next logical step, drawing on a foundation that has been established before. As Johnson says, it’s a “a story of one door leading to another door, exploring the palace one room at a time.”
In this context the key to having good ideas isn’t to retreat to a log cabin. “It’s to expand the range of your possible next moves – the perimeter of your potential – by exposing yourself to as much serendipity, as much argument and conversation, as many rival and related ideas as possible.”
Johnson says: “chance favours the connected mind”. No doubt Thomas would agree with him.