A new study out of The London School of Economics and Harvard dispels the myth of the lone genius toiling away in solitude until the brilliant insight finally hits. That's how we traditionally think of Edison, Darwin, Einstein and countless others. But according to this study, their creative output is more often the result of the socialization of ideas, cultural connectedness, and what the researchers call "collective brains" (love that).

The study focuses on passive, but powerful, social effects on ideas, in general. Meaning, the cumulative effect of prior innovations, cultural connectedness, and socialization/serendipity, leads to creative breakthroughs in individuals often without these individuals even realizing these influences influenced them.

At Ideasicle, we force this dynamic and compress it into a short amount of time. Let me explain.

First, the study.

Here are the three influences to creativity on a macro level, according to the London School Of Economics report:

  1. Sociality. Larger, more interconnected societies – where individuals are able to mix with people with diverse backgrounds – mean that more ideas are likely to emerge and interact with other ideas.
  2. Transmission fidelity. Mechanisms such as books, formal schooling and online courses, allow existing knowledge to be transmitted accurately so it can be ‘built upon’.
  3. Tolerance for deviation. Societies which lower the risk for people trying something new help promote innovation. 

Here's a short video with the study's creator, Dr Michael Muthukrishna, explaining it very clearly:

What fed Darwin feeds the Ideasicle Experts.

What got me so excited about this study is the fact Ideasicle practices actively what this research study has found already happens passively.

At Ideasicle, we start with the best creative minds we can find. Okay, maybe not Einsteins but they are some of the best creative talent in the advertising world.

We put four of them together in teams. Four different minds, four different perspectives, four idea machines blasting each other with inspiration. What's key is that the Experts can see each others' ideas, build on them, riff on them, until those polished gems emerge. They don't compete against each other, they work as a team. Talk about socializing ideas.

We compress all this into one week. We don't wait for serendipity to happen, we call serendipity and tell it to get the hell over here right now. The team of four is recruited, briefed, and they begin posting ideas straight away. 

Add to all this the benefits of virtual ideation - no meetings, everyone is reduced to a typeface, no physical intimidation (in any form), etc. - and I think it's fair to say Ideasicle is the crucible of the collective brain. 

Human creativity is a mysterious thing. But this study sheds important light on how our social nature results in more creativity. And we prove it every day at Ideasicle.

Follow up reading.

If you're interested in the topic of collective brains, I highly recommend two important books:

Steven Johnson's "Where Good Ideas Come From." Johnson does a fantastic job of researching and reporting the history of innovation and our understanding of it. Goes to great length to explain that the "lone genius" is rarely lone nor always a genius, but a product of socialized ideas. (click book to order on Amazon)

 

Keith Sawyer's "Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration." This book may as well be the Ideasicle playbook. Sawyer goes even more deeply into the benefits of what he calls "Group Genius." We bought it, we buy it, we live it. (click book to order on Amazon)

 

WILL BURNS IS FOUNDER & CEO OF IDEASICLE, AND A FORBES CONTRIBUTOR

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