"A definition is the enclosing of a wilderness of ideas within a wall of words." Samuel Butler
In last weekend's The New York Times the paper featured an Opinion article by Neal Gabler titled The Elusive Big Idea. In the article Gabler explores the very definition of ideas and thinking. What is an idea? What are they for? And, do we care?
If our ideas seem smaller nowadays, it’s not because we are dumber than our forebears but because we just don’t care as much about ideas as they did. In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them, the Internet notwithstanding. Bold ideas are almost passé.
It is not so much that bold ideas are passé as it is that bold ideas tend to be very costly.
Patent lawsuits are rampant at the moment, everyone suing everyone else, from Lodsys suing independent developers (and Apple trying to defend them), to Google, Apple, Microsoft, HTC, Samsung, and others all suing each other in various incestuous permutations fighting to put up the the walls that will determine what "mobile" means.
And it's not just technology. Lawyers, with their walls of words, are doing a great job to make anyone pursuing creative thought feel like the simple act of thinking is always pending litigation.
Ultimately there are two kinds of ideas: those that live in the ether of concepts and angels and dreams and those that are made known through action.
The boldest idea is the one that is actually implemented. Anyone can have a thought, anyone can try to define it, contain it, claim it, sue for it, but few, those that dare develop it, build it, are the true thinkers.
Bold ideas may be passé, but bold, differentiating action is not, and never will be.
Most importantly, if you can make something happen from an idea once, you can do it again.
With apologies to Benjamin Franklin, well done is better than well sued.
The Thinking Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Fridays, covering the ideas The Mechanism is thinking and talking about with our peers and clients.