Back in the 1930s, such creative giants as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield (all pictured), among others, gathered in their dormitories at Oxford or in the local pub to share their writings with each other.

Picture them with scotches, pipes, and transcripts and you’ve got the scene.

The idea was for each to share his ideas with the other brilliant minds to help shape the work. And Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet, and Williams's All Hallows' Eve were among the novels first read to this group. 

They were called “The Inklings” and in my mind were a very early form of Expert Sourcing.

Share idea. Get feedback. Improve.

Diana Pavlac Glyer wrote a book about the Inklings called, “The Company They Keep.” Here’s what she said about their interactions:

“I have spent 20 years examining the rough drafts and final versions of their works. I pored over their letters and diaries to discover exactly what the Inklings said to each other and what difference it made.” 

What Glyer discovered provides compelling evidence that Lewis, Tolkien, and the 17 other Inklings did in fact influence one another’s lives and writings.

There’s one story where Tolkien was considering abandoning The Lord of the Rings when Charles Williams inspired him to press on.

Each member was wildly creative on their own, of course. But when they were put into a group, the real magic happened. 

The fact these masters of literature were alive at the same time and working in the same place seems to be a miracle. But maybe it wasn’t a miracle at all. Maybe the fact that these writers institutionalized getting together, sharing ideas, riffing on each other, and building on ideas led to their collective successes.

The Inklings could do this early form of Expert Sourcing because of their physical proximity to each other. But as Ideasicle has proven, Expert Sourcing no longer requires physical proximity.

Virtual Inklings.

As I have written in past posts, I did not anticipate what would become the true power of this virtual ideation model we call Ideasicle. Originally, I figured if I can get the most creative people I’ve ever worked with (at creative hot shops like Goodby, Wieden, Arnold, Mullen, and others) to contribute their ideas, individually, to our clients’ marketing problems, we’d be all set.

What I realized pretty quickly was that the true magic of Ideasicle is not the individual experts, though each are brilliant in their own ways, but what happens between the four experts on any given project. 

Let’s call it the “Inkling Effect.”

One expert would post an idea. Another expert would be inspired to build on that idea. Another expert would be inspired to post an entirely new idea on a new thread. And on and on. (For more on the value of riffing here.)

Ideasicle’s ideation process is fluid, unpredictable, and seems to interweave the creative spirit of each team member together into something greater than any of the individuals. I suspect The Inklings experienced a similar ideation “flow” when they were drinking their scotches, smoking their pipes, and sharing their ideas.

The only difference is that Ideasicle’s experts may be thousands of miles apart sitting in front of their iPads or computers (though perhaps drinking scotch and puffing on pipes, not sure). 

We live The Inkling model.

I was so pleased to stumble upon The Inklings while on vacation last week. While I had heard of the authors, of course, I’d never heard of this group, nor its practices.

To me, reading about Tolkien, Williams, Barfield and the others ideating together, sharing ideas, building on them, and taking the criticism that went with it, validated what we’re doing at Ideasicle almost a century later.

Perhaps we had an inkling.