Where Do Good Ideas Come From

movie-clapperboard_M1N3v8I__LIn case you missed it, last week was the 25th Anniversary of Back to the Future, and focus was on ‘predictions’ that had woven their way into our reality. Notable, wearable technology (think Marty Junior taking an incoming call in his glasses). And did you know that Nike is purportedly working on self-lacing shoes?

The correlation between articles that cross my laptop and Hollywood blockbusters is intriguing. Picture doors that open via biometric scanners in Star Trek; facial recognition software and personalised advertising in Minority Report; and driverless cars that appeared in Total Recall.

The concept of driverless cars has been around since the 1920s, so perhaps Hollywood isn’t making all the predictions but rather increasing their momentum.

Hollywood writers and directors often consult ‘futurists’, who ‘visualise’, well, the future. For Minority Report, Speilberg had fifteen experts in design, architecture, computer science and research gather for a three-day think-tank. Yes, jobs like that exist. We use a game in workshops, Fat Chance, to stimulate future thinking, usually with a particular pain-point or opportunity in mind. The results are quite amazing.

Visioning occurs when humans ‘imagine possibility’. That’s what fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka did when he lost a friend to pancreatic cancer. Jack had an “a-ha” moment in biology after connecting the lessons on antibodies and carbon nanotubes with what he had been researching on Google, Wikipedia and YouTube. He packaged up a plan (budget and timeline included) and sent it off to two hundred professors. One hundred and ninety-nine rejections later he found someone that would listen. The result is a test for pancreatic cancer that takes 5 minutes, is similar to a diabetic strip, and costs a fraction of current tests.

So what has Hollywood got to do with this? Andraka is now eighteen and working on injecting nanorobots into the bloodstream that will have the capability to detect rogue or damaged cells before they can cause irreversible harm. Trials are already underway with nanorobots caged in DNA, carrying drugs into the bloodstream targeting specific leukemia cells. Sounds like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie right?

And what about nanorobots that are injected into the brain via the capillaries and “connect our neocortex to the cloud”? That is what Ray Kurzweil, engineer, futurist and technologist predicts will be happening in the 2030’s. Ray has made 147 predictions since 1990. 115 of them have come true.

The ability to plug our brain into the internet would change the way we work, learn, communicate and exist. Imagine sending your thoughts to someone simply through thought. Imagine downloading the recipe into your brain to cook the perfect meal. Remember the Matrix, where Tank downloads the ‘learn to fly a helicopter manual’ and Trinity learns to fly?

The ability of human beings to ‘imagine’ is the first step in the innovation process. For imagination to be unleashed, we need to make time.

And it doesn’t matter how good the idea is when it remains un-actioned and trapped eternally between the pages of a well-used notebook, or in the confines of someone’s head.

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