Today I attended a lunch with the previous Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Interestingly he quoted Gandhi’s famous quote about original ideas. Reading his book recently during my India travels this specific quote had stayed with me and like to dig a bit deeper in it.

In philosophy, ideas are usually construed as mental representational images of some object or concept. Many philosophers have considered ideas to be a fundamental part of our being and our existence. As per wikipedia: “The capacity to create and understand the meaning of ideas is considered to be an essential and defining feature of human beings. In a popular sense, an idea arises in a reflexive, spontaneous manner, even without thinking or serious reflection, for example, when we talk about the idea of a person or a place. A new or original idea can often lead to innovation.”

Original thinking and creativity are important for our continuous innovation, for helping resolve old and new challenges that arise. There is lots of thought on how ideas are actually spreading. Diffusion of innovations is a theory that seeks to explain how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. Everett Rogers, a professor of communication studies, wrote about this in his book Diffusion of Innovations. Rogers argues that diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the participants in a social system.  Rogers proposes that four main elements influence the spread of a new idea: the innovation itself, communication channels, time, and a social system. Ideas must be widely adopted in order to self-sustain and there is a point at which the idea or innovation reaches critical mass. Another well known book about spreading of ideas is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. He explains  the spreading of ideas through epidemiology, comparable to how virus spreads.

Most consistently in all, innovators and their new ideas are often first thought of as crazy or unreal. It needs a strong mind to bring them to fruition.


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