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It’s All Been Done Before: How to Turn Unoriginal Ideas Into Breakthroughs

It’s All Been Done Before: How to Turn Unoriginal Ideas Into Breakthroughs

Many of us want to start our own business, or practice, or even simply deliver value in a way that has never been delivered before. And the public arena we wish to venture into is filled with reports of new undertakings. These reports, however, tend to lean in one distinct direction. We mostly read about the trailblazers and pioneers who’ve pushed the boundaries of the market by creating a whole new offering, usually through some breakthrough, or the help of some form of innovative piece of technology. We mostly read of entrepreneurs who for example have revolutionized the high-heel and made millions of women’s feet happy around the globe, or invented an app for measuring movement during sleep to wake us up softly when we are in the lightest possible sleep state, or have set up a platform that fosters mutual support and mentoring among hundreds of thousands of female entrepreneurs.

The emphasis is on originality; On the never-been-done-before. But this emphasis on originality can leave us feeling that the only way to become successful is invariably going to be through radical novelty; through uniqueness, or innovation. We may as a result, as we contemplate our entrepreneurial future, ask ourselves in trepidation what entirely out-of-the-box, never-tried-before idea we might ourselves come up with to propel us upwards like a rocket.

Approaching things from this stance may render us prostrate, or like a deer caught in the headlights. The ideas we had when we initially decided to venture into a new, independent direction, may, in consequence, be rendered by us as trite or naive — a judgement which is powerful enough to stop us dead in our tracks.

But the reality is slightly different. The largest part of the economy is made up of businesses doing stuff that others have already been doing, and mostly for a long time. If Starbucks worried about originality, we’d all be drinking our herbicide, fungicide packed cup of Folgers instead of the morning caramel joes and afternoon vanilla pick-ups. If Lidl concerned itself with novelty, we would all have to travel significantly longer distances for our weekly meats and veggies.

Bakers, dentists, hairdressers, veterinaries or bloggers — most businesses operate in mature industries. These are sectors that have been in existence for a long time and are well established. They are harder to break into but that doesn’t mean these areas should be avoided. Quite the contrary. There is a bounty of hugely meaningful opportunities hiding for us in plain sight on account of a few important changes in our perception.

1. Most ideas are not novel. They already exist in our collective unconscious awareness.

If you’ve written an article and then found out that someone else has written approximately the same thing; or if you’ve had a breakthrough and then read the next day that someone else had a similar breakthrough before you, understand that you are not alone.

“We have invented nothing,” were Picasso’s words when he witnessed some of the most breathtaking art our planet has to offer, not among his peers’ paintings, but on cavern walls. Archaeological discoveries show that already in 22,000 BCE (that’s before the internet) our hunter-gatherer ancestors all across the globe drew identical symbols and images, in vivid colours, with incredible mastery and detail. Some say that they were communicating, or attempting to establish a language through those symbols. But that theory doesn’t explain how those symbols could be identical, even though they were produced independently, in different parts of the world, by artists who’d never met. How could they transcend all cultural, geographical and racial differences?

Carl Gustav Jung finally gave the world an explanation when he termed ‘the collective unconscious’. Like our common human anatomy, the unconscious mind comprises an immense storehouse of memories dating back to the distant past. Again, like the human body, the collective unconscious is an indefinable, boundless totality reaching far beyond human comprehension. Only 5 percent of our awareness is conscious. The rest is this humongous iCloud of All-knowing. We surface bits and pieces into our awareness much like we find stuff on google. Part of it is asking the right question. This process was very clear to intellectual heavyweights. If they had an hour to solve a problem and their life depended on the solution, they “would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask,” as Albert Einstein taught us. “For once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

The fact that you’ve created something that has already been thought of is a high sign that you have found a way to tap into the collective unconscious, you’ve accessed the iCloud of All-knowing. And if you’ve done once, you can do it again. This process is mostly random, serendipitous. But it doesn’t have to be. The exercises we practice in my workshop and in the #breakthrouhabits Facebook group are designed to help people access this iCloud of All-knowingdeliberately and on demand.

Now, what about originality and standing out from the crowd?

2. Innovation or creativity is simply our ability to make new connections between things.

To make new connections, or improve something, one must start with what is already there. Instead of becoming discouraged by someone who has already done what you wanted to do: wrote the same blog, gave the same speech, started the same coaching business — rejoice. New angles can only be created on top of, or in addition to other, older ideas. They’ve laid the foundation. Now it’s up to you to take to the next level.

But how do you do that?

3. Nothing innovative comes from focus.

Conventional wisdom teaches us that we need to focus, concentrate or analyze the task at hand in order to improve it or make it better. But conventional wisdom is wrong. When we’re at rest, with our eyes closed, letting our mind wander, that’s when our brain’s neural pathways which are responsible for making new, unexpected connections, activate. For these connections to be created, a point of reference must exist first. That’s that blog someone else already wrote or that thing someone else already designed. Your job is to allow your brain to create new connections between that point of reference (the one that exists) and something else in your mind (odd ideas, strange thoughts or even recapitulated events). As no two daisies are alike, your odd things, events and thoughts are unique. Thus, the new connection that is going to be created to that existing point of reference is bound to be unique. And what is that if not novelty? What is that if not innovation. An old point of reference + your unique angle = innovation.

4. Don’t lose sight of the core objective of your venture.

Aren’t you in it for love? Something created out of love is very different from something pragmatic. Pragmatic businesses are everywhere, and a discerning eye can tell whether they’re dealing with something pragmatic or something born out of love. Let’s think about love. Is love original? No! It’s ancient. It’s timeless. It’s universal. And yet, it’s always in high demand and never in sufficient supply. Your love is not only unique — it’s unmissable!

Make love primary, novelty optional and give yourself ample time to rest.

 

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