The Typical Life Cycle of a New Idea

Published on Feb 24th, 2012 by admin | 0
The Typical Life Cycle of a New Idea

It has been my experience that the formation of new ideas has no single formulae that makes them come along. Isaac Newton and the accident of the falling apple, which resulted in his theory of gravity, is as difficult a basis for generalization about the genesis of ideas, as is the outcome of Mark Zuckerberg’s college dormitory ruminations about how to just stay in touch with his friends which later became Facebook.
The other things we know about ideas is that they go through sort of a life cycle at the beginning of which many of the knowledgeable folks of the time denigrate the concept with statements like; “It can’t be done” or “We tried that years ago and it didn’t work” or “Where did you get such a nutty idea?”

Some ideas have taken years of work to become accepted, and some of their elements have not yet come to a solution. Example, the mathematical solution to the pattern recognition of the Fibonacci sequence which began in the middle 1200’s in Italy. Others seem to have sprung completely full blown from the mind of their creator; e.g. the Apple I-Pad. But in almost every case, new ideas are the object of scorn and derision in their early days.

William James (1842 –1910), a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher and one who was trained as a physician, knew this full well. He wrote influential books on the science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism and on the philosophy of pragmatism. James fully understood the cynical tendencies of his fellows to sneer at new ideas and once, when challenged to define his disdain for the phenomenon opined that:
“A new idea is first condemned as ridiculous and then dismissed as trivial, until finally, it becomes what everybody knows.”
The road to new idea acceptance has not gotten much easier since!

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