A journey requires us to know the direction in which we are moving. Otherwise it is called wandering, meandering!

Imagine you are in a dark room or a dimly lit room. Suddenly a narrow beam of torch illuminates. There is just an beam of light. It is not falling on anything yet. You will have to walk and explore in that direction to find more. Now, imagine multiple such beams of light in the dark room. They are all beams, distinguished and separate. Not illuminating the entire room only parts of it. These beams take us towards more understanding of our room environment.

Beam in a dark room

Ideas are just like this. They are directions that take us towards more understanding of our environment/universe. It is up to us to move in that direction and explore the landscape or look the other way. What are some of the ways in which we can move in the direction that an Idea is pointing at? How do we develop our ideas i.e.. make the journey in the direction?

There are two utilities of Ideas

1) To solve a problem/bridge a gap- We all are familiar with this. We keep looking for better ideas to earn more, solve for poverty, cure a disease etc.

2) General abstract connection between two ideas or a flash of intuition — Think of a musician suddenly getting some new tune, imagine a work of an art, imagine an apple falling on Newton. I am not sure if Newton was thinking there reflecting on solving any particular problem. It is a flash of insight when two more ideas combine and give a new direction.

So how do we develop an ideas will depend on the type of idea that you get from the above. If the idea is about solving a gap. It makes sense to take practical steps in that direction like doing a pro and con list, doing a feasibility test, doing simulations if there are multiple ideas, doing self-reflections on our values and thinking which ideas work well for us personally etc. The internet is filled with various tools for that. My learning here is that the most important thing here is to not jump into conclusions too soon. Not to reject or adapt ideas in haste.

Staying with ambiguity, uncertainty is the key. Curiosity is almost panacea. Very easy to write and very difficult to do. When ideas are quickly judged the opportunity to develop them is lost.

It’s difficult to build second type of ideas. They are abstract. May not have any application or practical use immediately. Just plain vanilla, abstract, ideas. A beam of light. Something only you can see yet. Something only you can feel yet. Now you have to go in their direction and build them relevant for others and your context.

An example is a chess strategy — Based on the pattern on board you may have this strange intuition that a particular pattern of moves can be decisive. You dont yet have complete steps mapped out. You are not even sure why it will work. Similarly with relationships. It sometimes just ‘clicks’. Not sure what is this click. It happens in various walks of life. We have a clear sense of direction and yet we don't know why. I think that such ideas have a strong bodily sensation. A strong feeling. The mental or cognitive part is not fully aware or able to comprehend. There are not enough mental images or frame to understand for such ideas.

The only thing we can do with such ideas is take risks. We walk in those directions. We experiment, observe our experience, collect data and then decide. The key here is to trust and take initial steps to explore.

Only allowing these ideas to breathe inside you can help you understand them and test them. You have a strong liking for this friend — only asking her/him out can tell you what this feeling is! You are overwhelmed with emotions — taking up a brush or pen and only risking some failure will get you some art or expression. You can only calculate so many moves for your intuitive chess strategy. In the end the position will emerge only as you make real moves. You have to walk down that road. You cant sit and imagine or plan. You have to do the research and take a mini project to explore it.

For both the above types. You develop an idea by supporting it, discussing its significance, showing how it connects to other ideas or how it connects to your purpose. There is nothing good or bad here. No rushing to solutions. Just play and fun.

Following are some generic ways I like to play with ideas

  1. Move it out of my head. In any way. Write, draw, compose, picture, build, formulate, take action, make a call, discuss etc. Anything. An external representation that can be seen, touch, heard, felt or taste. It has to have a strong sensory connect.
  2. Tell a story using the idea. Make a character adapt that idea and weave it into a plot.
  3. Compare and contrast with other ideas. With business ideas, Chess ideas etc. you can compare and contrast with other ideas to build on your existing idea.
  4. Collect data and arguments for and against the idea.
  5. Make a list of places where this idea can be used
  6. Taking ideas away from their topics or generic classification. Not thinking in terms of physics, biology, management, arts, sports etc. Ideas have universal applications. These containers of classification are usually in my head