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March 17, 2011 / wasangrabe

Where do ideas come from? And how can we develop them?

By Wasan Grabe

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An idea is a term that refers to a concept, intention or a point of view, which comes from the relationship between the use of our senses and the outside world by reading, watching and critical thinking. Not surprisingly, finding an idea is not a big deal because they are all around us. Sometimes an idea comes easily while, for instance, walking, doing exercises or even in the bathroom, but what is important,  to know is how to use, put questions and examine ideas.
Reading, undoubtedly, is a crucial resource to stimulate ideas such as reading news on newspapers, magazines, government and scientific websites. Similarly, journals can provide ideas that although may not be original but at least have been verified by professionals through peer review.
Another significant aspect of finding ideas is through people by listening to stories, conversations, incidents and interviewing researchers, asking them what is new or interesting in their discipline. A meeting, whether big or small, provides a reasonable source of information which can generates ideas from interactions and discussions.
Furthermore, visual media such as TV, have been playing a big role in giving ideas that lead to change. In India for example, Levitt and Dubner write in Superfreakonomics that the introduction of cable TV changed the life of Indian women. Cable television led to a reduction in birth rate and increased level of education.
So after finding an idea, how can we develop it?
There are many aspects should be remembered. Firstly, using the five W`s questions and H (What, Who, When, Where, Why and How). Secondly, story elements such as background, individuality, conflict, action and suspense, help to develop a good story.
More importantly, thinking critically and deeply about a story in order to find ways for making the story as  conversational and especially in touch with a person’s life.
Thirdly, taking into account reading other news that might have covered the same story, that helps to provide details such as how the situation has changed.
Finally, explain some relevant issues followed by facts, results of studies with some statistics to grab the attention of the reader and to engage him/her with the story. For instance, Levitt and Dubner in their book Superfreakonomics develop a story about Indian women`s lives, they write:
“It is especially unlucky to be born female, because many Indian parents express a strong ‘son preference’. Only 10 percent of Indian families with two sons want another child, whereas nearly 40 percent of families with two daughters want to try again”
In conclusion, ideas come from printed and online media, people, meetings and studies. Finding ideas is not difficult, but how they are used and developed is the most important. To turn them into innovative stories requires deep and creative thinking.
Blum, Deborah, Mary Knudson, and Robin Henig. “Finding Story Ideas and Sources.” In A Field Guide for Science Writers, 1-10. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Levitt, Steven, and Stephen Dubner. “Introduction:Putting The Freak In Economics.” In Superfreakonomics, 7. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.


Leave a Comment
  1. SONG / Mar 24 2011 3:09 pm

    I guess Firstly-to-Finally description is quite straight forward. The reference seems to be way more focused in India case study, but I see you effectively extracted the scheme of developing idea.

    But I can’t throw out this feeling of being bored when I read it. I doubt that the picture with IDEA Bulb alone is a good one. Perhaps, you could use a picture of some mass-media (photo of newspaper, TV or radio) and some other photo that can express ‘step-by-step’ idea of developing idea.

    In the end, I’d like to highlight the Firstly-to-Finally part, it is really significant.

    • Wasan Grabe / Mar 25 2011 12:44 pm

      Dear Song ,
      thanks for your comment, I agree with you in choosing pictures, but why I prefered this one because an idea can come quickly and easy like when you operate a light, but how to use this light effectively before it goes out is the more important , is the same with an idea .
      and for using those two examples because they reflect what I want to say in the two points of ( how TV can change the social life, and how statistic can make a story more logical or we can say more believable) .
      My Regards

  2. ghaleh01 / Mar 25 2011 1:16 pm

    Origin of ideas

    I refer to the definition of ideas that mentioned above as a point of view that comes between the interaction of our senses and the outer world. We can use this definition from different prospective which is from engineers prospective when they are working to design a project in which ideas are the corner stone of any successful project.

    Engenders’ idea sources can be brainstorming or morphological methods. Brainstorming can happen if there is a problem requires a solution and engineers can gather together and through ideas on each other to shape the final brilliant idea that form the “successful project”. Successful ideas should have some features that make it dominating others; some of these features are modernity and feasibility. Having a good idea is a process in itself, it requires some knowledge about the topic in question, it takes time “a lot of time” and it is always useful to keep it simple.

    The second sources is morphology “the outer appearance of things like shape structure… etc’ is another source of ideas forming and simple place is nature and the shapes of things around us like mountains tress or even the anatomy of animals or human body could be a great inspiration to engineers and writers .
    URL: Engeeners sources of ideas
    Morphology definition

  3. melody68 / Apr 6 2011 7:05 am

    Hi Wasan

    Even the topic is hard to write, you did a good job. I like the way you write. Clear and easy to understand. I know your mother language is not English, you must have made a lot effort in writing it. Well done!
    Ideas are very important to writers, good ideas can result in an interesting article. In your article, you analyse step by step how the idea is created.
    We should pay attention to our life, a lot of good ideas can come from daily life. Furthermore, we can use commonsense in daily life to develop ideas. In that way, professional science can easily be understood by the public.

  4. rachelrenee11 / May 4 2011 6:52 am

    This sis well written in regards to how ideas are formed and where they come from. Reading the Freakenomics it was very interesting, as at first it was as though it was taking a developmental science approach. How societies develop and gender roles within these communities, then it went on to mention economics. So I guess an idea can come from visualizing something, or an experience and not to mention from personal readings.
    Ideas develop further overtime as well due to media and also the environment you are in at that time.
    Good Blog.

  5. ushachandra / Jun 13 2011 10:41 am

    Fabulous Blog Wasan. Topics like such really gets one thinking and ponder about where ideas derive from. But dont you also think besides readings and media, ideas also pop out from experience? It is just a personal suggestion, i may be wrong but i gain most of my ideas from experience. I apply ideas from past experience to solve a problem or to brainstorm. I do not base all my ideas from experience, i do get them from media and by reading as well. Ideas come from collaboration from discussions and they come naturally, just like jokes. Finally i would like to share a paragraph that i extracted from an author names Campbell

    “Ideas are a product of active imagination, which needs to be free to move along normally, not forced and squeezed out whenever you want it to. You need to let your imagination soak in experience, absorb everything you to, and perhaps, when your imagination feels it’s in its best interest to do so, it will eject an idea, and you’ll think it came from ozone.”


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