Ideas In : Ideas Out
What do we need to have to be remembered?
Can we summarise ten textbooks, put them in a well-spaced article and become an “expert”?
Or can we read just one book and gather an insight that is all our own?
The first, though it’s now a ‘hack’ to being perceived as an “expert”, it’s hugely boring. It’s rewriting and taking something from the past and putting it somewhere where it shouldn’t belong – the present.
The second is new and innovative; making changes to what is already established, it takes something from the past and makes it into something new; worthy to have in the present. It reinterprets the past.
Insight like this has real value because only you can give it.
It’s linking separate, sometimes disparate ideas and putting them into a conclusive event that makes sense to others.
You could be speaking to someone who you perceive to be far out of your stride but if you have an insight that merges an interest of yours with theirs, your conversation transcends status into genuine interest.
You could be a long time piano player but a newly turned painter and offer an insight learnt from the world of piano, apply into the world of art and find that other, more experienced painters think of it as a new, interesting, or valuable angle never seen before.
Debra Hurd, Keys, 2016
We all have this potential for insightful discussion yet the problem is we don’t necessarily engage or trust our curiosities to get us to that stage…
To have an insight we need to go deeper. Hovering on the outskirts and picking the low hanging fruit simply won’t get us there.
Once we start going deeper, chasing the rabbit down the rabbit hole, we build up a repertoire of ideas. The difficulty is avoiding vague summation and having something creatively new. That’s why it’s often far better to intake varied influence to get our brains associating more abstractly. Like how George Nelson likened Armin Hofmann’s design lessons to Bach’s rudimentary finger exercises; bringing to light that true masters see great beauty in emphasising fundamentals. Or the similarity between the later postmodern logic and the modern artist Marcel Duchamp to be quintessentially a postmodern-modern artist after the fact. These are all deeper insights that go beyond the surface fact that additionally evoke scrutiny and discourse.
This action of intaking varied sources of information brings to mind one of the greatest creative minds in our history: Leonardo Da Vinci. LDV held a multitude of interests to the stage of mastery, so it was no coincidence that he was this creative, in fact, his upbringing suggested typical mediocrity, but it was his devotion to curiosity that brought about the leaps made during the Renaissance including invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, maths, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography.
One of the varied pages of Leonardo's Sketchbook. This time, curious about the dimensions of a horse…
Ideas In : Ideas Out
This then is the soft equation for insight: II:IO – Absorb the world’s ideas and leave room for your ideas to simply come about. We can’t create new things in a vacuum, we can’t create new things in an echo chamber, and we certainly can’t create new things if we don’t give ourselves the time or environment for them to manifest.
Because where you can read ten books and achieve an extensive knowledge about something you find interesting, achieving an insight that is uniquely yours is the real value we seek to find in the world. It pushes us forward. And that doesn’t necessarily come about from the mass loading of one specific subject but rather from a curious and playful mind across multiple.