We live in the conversation age and not the thinking age

Internet 1.0 was about the information age, now with Internet 2.
Written by Tom Foremski on
Internet 1.0 was about the information age, now with Internet 2.0, we live in the conversation age. Conversation overload is our new malady, in the same way information overload tortured us ten years ago. Now we have both. Our communications technologies and numerous platforms mean that we have conversations everywhere, and often with lots of people at the same time: email, IM, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Seesmic, and many subsets of those. I've noticed that the more conversations I have, the fewer opportunities I have for original thinking. And Silicon Valley is rife with conversations. Companies are moving here everyday to become part of the great conversations we have here. But not all companies. Last year I met with the Japanese founders of Lunarr, which has a unique collaborative tool (I have alpha test invites if you contact me tom at siliconvalleywatcher.com). Hideshi Hamaguchi and his business partner Toru Takasuka, are in the top league of Japanese entreprenuers. Interestingly, Lunarr is not based in Tokyo or Silicon Valley, it is based in Portland, Oregon. [Please see: Lunarr: A Once in a Blue Moon Company with a Unique Collaborative App] I asked why Portland? They said it is a place that allows them to think. I love that answer. Because here in Silicon Valley we get sucked up into many conversations. It's great but it makes it difficult to engage in original thinking. it is difficult to avoid being influenced by the many influencers we have around here. Yet my job is to try to come up with original thinking, unique story angles, and ideas you might only find here. My job is to provide you with content you can't get anywhere else. And that's tough. I don't want to add to the white-noise of the bloggo/mediasphere. The way I do it is by deliberately withdrawing from all conversations. I won't check my email for hours, sometimes days. I switch off TV and radio, and I limit how much I read online and offline.

My best ideas come to me when I am alone and quiet, when I'm walking down the street, when I'm not in conversation with anyone. That's when I can notice my inner voice and that's when tons of great ideas come bubbling up.

I've realized that our brain works on complicated tasks and problems quite happily in the background. When it is done processing, it looks for a lull in our day, an opportunity to throw the result into our consciousness.

And that's why I carry my super slim moleskin notebook with me at all times, to write them down, to catch those ideas.

The trick to having great ideas is...

My favorite quote comes from Linus Pauling, the US two-time Nobel prize winner, for Chemistry and Peace (he refused to work on the Manhattan Project unlike other self-proclaimed pacifists: Einstein, Fermi, and Oppenheimer.) He is considered one of the world's 20 top scientists with an incredible body of work produced during his 93 years.

How did he do it, how did he come up with so many great ideas? He said that the trick to having great ideas is to have lots of ideas.

It's true. A lot of the ideas that I write down, I throw away later, but there are enough left behind that make it through to the next stage. (But you have to write them down otherwise they disappear as quickly as the most vivid morning dream.)

As I researched Linus Pauling for this article, it turns out that he is from Portland. (He clearly had time to think :-)

Portland on fire...

Hideshi told me that there is a great new site launched in Portland just this year, that helps introduce the entrepreneurial community to each other. The site is called "Portland On Fire - A daily discovery of PDX people."

Interestingly, there is another serendipitous Linus Pauling conection: Hideshi has a degree in Physical Chemistry, (I have a degree in Chemistry too, and so does Om Malik.)

Here is an extract from Hideshi's profile on Portland on Fire:

What do you like most about Portland?

- Rain, Shower, Mist, which covers Portland one third of the year.
- Human Chemistry, which covers Portland half of the year. (in daytime)
- Serendipity, which covers Portland all of the year.

I like something that covers the all thing constantly without anyone’s permission.

Serendipity requires three essential elements:

(1) Prepared minds, (2) the bucket for those minds w/ the appropriate size, and (3) some catalyst to start the reaction.

Portland has them all.

I am sure more and more interesting things will happen here. But we have to be careful so that we should not lose any single element.

Could you describe your secret process to come up with unique concept / strategies for variety of businesses?

Step 1: Get information - as minimal as possible
Step 2: Draw and play with lots of diagrams
Step 3: Touch, think, talk, and thank.
Step 4: Take a walk
Step 5: Shake head, squash hair, hit the wall
Step 6: Take a shower
Step 7: Enjoy the moment of “what if…!?” and “a-ha!”

What is your creative process?


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