Why big ideas aren’t always rare ones

Popular US magazine, The New Yorker, has published an extremely interesting article online about the annals of innovation.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

“Newton and Leibniz both discovered calculus. Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered evolution. Three mathematicians ‘invented’ decimal fractions. Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestley, in Wiltshire, in 1774, and by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, a year earlier. Color photography was invented at the same time by Charles Cros and by Louis Ducos du Hauron, in France. Logarithms were invented by John Napier and Henry Briggs in Britain, and by Joost Bürgi in Switzerland. Who says big ideas are rare? … The history of science is full of ideas that several people had at the same time.”

The point behind the article is powerful: if there is a problem in the world, multiple people will be searching for a solution, and often a solution will arise from separate people at the exact same time.

Big ideas aren’t always rare ones.

What’s this mean for you and your ideas? It means you should take advantage of your ideas and act on them immediately. Chances are somebody (somewhere) is going to act on the exact same idea, so it’s best if you are the first one to do so.

If you have a few minutes to spare, be sure to read the entire article here.