What’s the (second) Big Idea?
I’ve been reading a few blogs by fairly well-lit individuals in the business and marketing world. Some appear to conjure up new concepts on a regular basis. Quite aside from how exhausting this must be, it made me think about whether it’s actually possible to come up with more than one Big Idea.
One or two of my subscriptions include the blogs of successful business gurus, considered experts who are watched by a certain sector of Corporate plc for the next big thing – this on the basis that they’ve already delivered one widely adopted Big Idea. But are subsequent pearls of wisdom original new ideas of value and reason for contact, or just the same story set in a different scene?
I can understand the popular author thing where one can come up with lots of ideas for stories, but ordinarily these are based on one theme. Take Dan Brown and his Lost-Da-Vinci-Demon books for example. Successful formula. One idea. So I’ll rule authors out – albeit in a grand, sweeping and not at all scientifically researched way – on the basis that Dan Brown doesn’t write recipe books. And on the same basis, out go business consultants for failing to ‘push-the-envelope’ more than once.
But back to big ideas for a moment. Clarence Birdseye (have a guess) invented frozen food. But it was Earl Flosdorf who invented freeze-dried food. I don’t know much about processing frozen peas (more precisely, I know nothing about processing frozen peas), but there were 22 years between those two inventions and very little in the 80 years since. A good demonstration then, that just because you know something about freezing peas, it doesn’t automatically mean that you should be called upon to comment on the next big thing in the freezy peas industry. Or that you’re capable of moving industries forward more than once. Or even that the industry needed moving forward at all.
As nations of course, we produce big ideas by the bucket-load. The last 200 years being particularly productive for Great Britain. Whether this means there’s something in the cultural psyche (Britain having more inventions per head than, say, Belgium) or that we just have particularly fertile Eureka periods, I don’t know. I do know people however, who will bet their children on Britain being the greatest nation of original thinkers; producing more gifts to mankind, industry and science than all other 194 countries combined. I’m just not convinced that one individual – British or Belgian – can have more than one Big Idea.
Of course, executing one big talent and then applying it beautifully for the benefit of customers, is a marvellous thing that many of us do. More than once. See website for further details.