When does an idea end?

Where do ideas begin and end? If you approached your work with the mentality that it is always evolving, never really ending, you’re more likely to discover creative ideas.

The beginning of any idea is the most uncertain part of it, because we don’t know what impact some bit of knowledge will have down the line. Something you heard or saw or experienced yesterday (or a year ago) might suddenly spring up in your mind tomorrow and spark an idea. We have to wait it out then, throw ideas down on paper, or on a track or canvas, and blend them all together to see what comes from it. But even then, we can’t be certain.

Often an idea feels as though it has begun when we feel a spark of insight, when something just “clicks.” But we know this isn’t how creativity really works. What clicks and what doesn’t isn’t easily assumed.

On the other hand, when an idea seemingly ends, it feels much more concrete.

The book is written, the painting framed, the business launches, the patent is filed. These feel like the natural end to an idea, but in reality these are not the end of any idea, they are merely outputs, checkmarks in boxes in our mind.

The mere fact we have these – sometimes unconscious – checkboxes of what an idea should be, or where it should end, limits our ability to think creatively. Looking for the right idea will cause you to overlook the creative ones.

What matters most for any creative idea is the output, I think that’s when an idea truly ends and the next evolution of it begins. It’s when we look at what an idea can do instead of what it is, that’s when we know it’s met its purpose and can begin to evolve.

And really, this is what matters most for us as creatie thinkers. If we’re to fully explore creative potential we shouldn’t surround ourselves with a picture of what the final outcome of our ideas should be (the finished book, the completed painting, the successful business). Doing so limits our intent and can even hinder our ability to get the idea out of our heads to begin with.

Instead, we must constantly approach ideas with the frame of mind that says: What can this become?

In his recent 99u Conference presentation, SEER Interactive founder Wil Reynolds put it bluntly:

“Don’t get blinded by the output and celebrate the wrong win.”

To embrace creative thinking we must focus on outcomes of our work: the completed story, the inspirational picture, the individuals who can use our ideas every day to improve their life.

When we focus on the output, we are more likely to accept when the idea needs to evolve, we are more inclined to follow paths and deviations from our original ideas to ones that might be more successful.

What if you stopped trying to reach some final “end” with your ideas and instead focused on the output you’re hoping for?

For one, I bet you’d get a lot more done. You’ll also encounter more creative possibilities too.