Nurturing Good Ideas

It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face an active audience, you have to be convincing. You have to step up your game. It’s a fundamental human motivation to increase status, self-esteem and reputation.  Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think, calls this the audience effect – the shift in performance when we know some one is watching. Add this element to Chris Anderson’s theory of crowd accelerated innovation, and you have a globally connected engine of growth. A network of ideas.

Lil Demon started breakdancing when he was four. He watched YouTube videos of other dancers, copied their moves and added on. He started competing in local breakdancing battles and beating performers three times his age. His skill was so extraordinary he performed on America’s Got Talent, the Ellen DeGeneres Show and in Jonathan Chu’s Step Up 3D.

Scientists understand that sharing ideas publicly encourages breakthrough discoveries – hence the invention of scientific journals in the 17th century. This worldwide network satisfies a researchers motivation to gain recognition and allows others to add onto new public knowledge. This network still flourishes today.

But there are examples when the process of public thinking and networks breaks down. Ernest Duchesne a French medical student discovered penicillin after observing stable boys placing saddles in damp rooms to grow mold. They claimed it cured the horses of saddle sores. He experimented on sick guinea pigs, cured them entirely and submitted the findings for his thesis. His teachers discounted his work and his research was buried. Penicillin wasn’t discovered again for another 31 years, in which time millions of people died from diseases curable with antibiotics. If his research had been shared across a network, those lives might have been saved.

Today there’s unprecedented opportunity to think in public and share those thoughts in a connected network – think of YouTube, Twitter, Ted Conferences – our very own Northstar Lab. It doesn’t matter how specialized your interest, there is an audience for your ideas, discoveries and innovations. People will comment, recommend and add onto your creation, fueling the generation of new ideas. There’s no excuse for the human race to lose the next penicillin discovery. You have the venue for public thinking, so get your idea out there. Go find your audience.

Tahnee PerryComment