What is original?
In terms of creativity and ideation, “original” can be described as something new. But being original really requires more than just being new. It also implies standing apart as unique. It’s the combination of new and unique that takes us from ordinary to original.
Why be original?
Society likes originality – and for good reason. It inspires and enriches our lives. We want to see and experience original thoughts, ideas and visuals. We like to be provoked, entertained or questioned in different and interesting ways.
Let’s look at Halloween for an example. This yearly tradition is when some of the youngest members of our society play make believe. They dress up for the rest of us. They plan out a costume based on the person (or creature) they want to become for one special evening. The results of their unique ideas are wacky, wonderful and often original creations.
Why don’t we see more originality?
Today, originality is hard to come by. Speed and efficiency have rivalled its importance. There have never been so many easy solutions for everyday problems than there are now. We have more resources available than ever before – at our fingertips and within seconds. Most simply don’t have the time or patience to produce original, creative ideas.
So what’s missing?
Thinkers – those that have original thoughts and pursue them. Great thinkers either have the time or make the time to explore their unique ideas. But originality isn’t just another item on their to-do list. Original thinkers not only make a commitment towards their ideas, but follow them through with fervor and conviction. As a result, they bring us originality. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates come to mind as a couple of well known great thinkers.
Going back to our trick-or-treaters, I don’t think many kids say, “I don’t have time to think about a Halloween costume this year. I’m just going to go as whatever is easiest.” Instead, these young thinkers plan far in advance. They develop a clear visual of what they want and how it will look. By the time the big night rolls around, everything is in place.
Everyone is different. And everyone has a unique view of themselves and the world around them. If we each took that view and used it to generate original ideas, we’d have millions of different solutions to any given problem. But, we don’t. Generally, there are a limited number of individuals providing novel ideas. The rest just follow along with what someone else has already created or discovered, and build upon that success.
It has been said that “it’s all been done before.” But how true is that? Are there really no original ideas left to be had? As difficult as originality is to achieve today, so too is its importance towards creative success. We can’t “reinvent the wheel”, but by saying that, we hinder our own unique thoughts.
What’s your approach to being original?
You don’t have to be a kid or a recluse to have original ideas. Originality can be explored as a process of thinking, planning and doing. The ideal result is something both new and unique. Whatever your approach, make sure it makes sense to you. After all, you’re an original.
Let’s continue the conversation. What are your thoughts on being original?