Bill's Conversational Musings

Idea Cultivation

Pouring water into a plant

As I mentioned in earlier posts these ideas come at a time when you least expect it. This is, I feel, true illumination. It's an amazing feeling when you realize that your unconscious brain continues to work on a problem for you in the background.

I was inspired when I read Strategic Thinking and the New Science by T. Irene Sanders. In the book she explained a process that happens when ideas just come to you in a flash. Much of what is covered below is my own personal interpretation or observation on some of the points she covers in this study.

This flash of brilliance can not be forced. In our society, we do not like to work with unpredictable timelines. We want things now. If a web page doesn't load in 3 seconds we move on to the next one. Therefore, this kind of idea cultivation and revelation goes counter to what our culture expects.

It can and will happen when a solution presents itself AFTER the opportunity to solve the problem has passed. It has happened to me on more than one occasion. However, it's also something we must come to accept.

The Gift

When the insight does come is should catch you by surprise. It's the same kind of surprise you have when you receive a gift. The feeling will resemble that of wonder and astonishment.

The whole notion about this being caught off guard is important to note. You might ask why. The reason is you must be prepared for it. You do not what to lose the essence of the idea. Always have something to write with and on at all times.

One way to encourage this mental enlightenment is to do a substantial amount of preparation. If you can study for an exam you can study for this.

Mental Preparation

You will need to find multiple sources from which to draw. You will want to ask the question of others in their field of expertise. Although their answer may not be the key to solving the problem, their insight or approach could be. It would be wise to read several books on the subject as well. What all this does is fuel the subconscious mind with information to help it come to a solution.

I often find that if I just do something else the ideas for or a solution to other problems will come to me. "Occupy yourself with menial tasks," is what Sheldon Cooper said in an episode of The Big Bang Theory. He was trying to solve a theoretical problem and found his answer while bussing a table at a restaurant.

What is interesting is that these ideas come in a flash. They don't develop over time or come in slowly. The way a bulb goes off on a camera, these ideas come in instantaneously.

One of the most surprising things is the solution might be opposite from where you thought you would find it. An example might be if you were looking for a way to balance or stabilize something you might be using something solid such as a spring. When really you discover a liquid would do the job better.


When the ideas come to mind they are complete. There are no missing pieces. These ideas are almost as if somebody has been laboring on how all the pieces will fit. Which somebody has? That person is you.

Sometimes when you think of or work on a project you know how it is going to come out. Or, perhaps you know what the final result needs to be. With a project that the unconscious mind has been working on every piece will be in place. All the details will have been worked out.

There is a sense of awareness when a flash ideas come to mind. You will look around and wonder why nobody else before now has thought of this. A similar thought is, "If I have thought of this. Surely somebody else has too." Remember you are a unique collection of experiences so probably not.

A good example of this to me is the announcement of Apple's iPhone. More specifically it was the incorporation of a touch screen. Until then phones had buttons and here was a simple pane of glass. The idea was striking and brilliant. It wasn't like devices evolved or morphed over time. Some devices had weak touch screens but were little more than hand-held displays than a control surface.

The iPhone's use of the touch screen was the simple notion that buttons were obsolete. Why had nobody before thought to put this into a consumer electronic device?

When ideas come there is an emotional euphoria. It almost feels like you have tapped into a higher level of thinking. The ideas don't feel like your own. A wave of excitement and emotion can come over you since now you have fuel for your ideas.

The final emotional push is a feeling of thanks. Thankful for the gift. Thankful for being armed with the knowledge to move forward.

When this idea comes you will know it is correct without a doubt. These gifts come full and complete with all the gaps filled in.


I often run my ideas by people who are good at filling in pieces I may have missed. When I put these ideas that have been gifted to me to these associates, they usually have nothing to add. It's this independent verification like this that help move the ideas forward.

These ideas have an element of elegance to them. They come with a bit of magnificence and refinement. Almost as if they had been thought of by a scientist or engineer.

They fit in a larger design perfectly with little or no modification. The ideas align with what is already known about the problem. If the problem has certain time constraints or resources the solution satisfies those requests.


Allow your brain to help you solve some of your hardest problems. Give it the fuel it needs like information, rest and the right foods. You just might be surprised what you come up with.

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