I told a college class an awful truth today – there are no new ideas. It sounds awful, but it’s very likely to be true. Every idea that can be thought has probably been thought, maybe not in the context of the contemporary world or even in a meaningful or relevant way, but it has been thought.
Some of these ideas have been spoken. Perhaps many of them. I have several friends that speak ideas to me just about every time I see them. They know I like computers and games, so therefore I can solve all of the world’s problems for them.
In “Homer Bad Man,” one of my favorite Simpson’s episodes, he meets a graduate student and says, “How come you guys can go to the moon but you can’t make my shoes smell good?”
I always think about this when someone comes to me with an idea – it’s as if the idea was the hard part of the equation. They should make a game that does “X” (and “X” is normally some combination of existing games mixed with a bit of displeasure toward the current gaming market). Such as, “They should make a game that is just complete, you know, with no bugs like Skyrim. And no DLC. A great game would be Skyrim, mixed with SSX, but without any bugs.”
Yup. You’ve solved the world’s problems with that idea. The hard part is over, right?
Author Neil Gaiman has a great post about ideas. He says an idea is just part of the whole. The essay mainly speaks to writing stories, but the same can be said about any of the creative professions – in particular, the kind of work that is done at iD.
The reason I bring this up is because everyone who takes a class at iD will someday be put in the situation of an idea-pusher trying to faux collaborate. You see, idea-pushers are the ones that hear you know how to make “apps” and think that they know exactly what the market is missing. What they don’t realize is that most people who know how to program apps or games, create films, take photos, make websites or even robots, are not in need of ideas. These creators have imaginations of their own. They play the same games, experience the same troubles with their iPhones or have a long list of movie ideas that they daydream about and refine with each passing day.
Idea-pushers don’t understand this. They start conversations with, “I have an app idea…” or “Wouldn’t it be great if an app could…” without any knowledge about how difficult it is to create such a product. Not only that, but the pusher will also make the horrible presumption that they somehow have ownership on the execution of an idea regardless of whether they touched it or not. “I thought of that!” they whine, in many cases about some silly Facebook functionality that’s horribly obvious.
There is a point – an important one. The most valid action that someone can take in support of an idea is not just to believe in it, but to execute it. You can roam around the world talking about your book for you entire life, but books don’t write themselves, and neither do great programs, websites, nor films. Great photographs don’t just come into existence because they have been thought about, but because someone took the initiative – and the same goes for everything in the creative world that we enjoy. The power is doing, not simply thinking.
In this sense, places like iD Tech Camp generate electricity – they supply power to ideas; they enable the creation of imagination; they allow action in a sea of inaction. So the next time an idea pusher accosts you, ask them what’s preventing their ability to do – because you have the power!