What is an idea… really?

Magdalena Bibik
3 min readSep 10, 2021
Anete Lusina for Pexels

A definition of an idea is:

/ʌɪˈdɪə/
noun

a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action. “the idea of linking pay to performance has caught on”

the aim or purpose. “I took a job with the idea of getting some money together”

When we think of ideas, we tend to mean “creative ideas” as in “new and useful”. With that perspective in mind, let’s examine the theory of not being as rich in ideas as we might give ourselves credit for.

An idea’s purpose is to deliver a new solution to a problem. But if the solution already exists, then the “idea” is nothing more than an answer. A… task. A “to do”.

We use the term “idea” widely, more often than not when we refer to a “thought”. A thought — the action or process of thinking — needs to combine new pieces of information together in order to get the status of an idea. An example of this would be me walking my dog the other day in wet grass wearing my sandals. “I should have chosen sneakers” is a thought. “I could use two of the poop bags as socks to keep my feet dry” is an idea (a weird one, I’ll take it).
An idea doesn’t have to be new to everybody, it’s enough if it’s new to you. Perhaps in other parts of the world people are covering their feet with poop bags all the time, meanwhile I was feeling utterly creative channeling my inner MacGyver.

On a day off one can come up with an idea of “visiting Anna”. Although, if “visiting Anna” is a recurring activity, then there can be a discussion whether it really is an idea or just a suggestion — meanwhile “visiting Bella” (something that never happens) would be an idea for the weekend as in “new solution for spending the free time”.

Let’s now play with a thought that a person actually generates original ideas. One might suggest that this quality — or skill — is highly appreciated. Well, not per se. Since an idea is something “new”, it automatically suggests a change of status quo. In an environment where willingness to change is low, an overdose of ideas is not always welcome. Thus a creative, working or living in such environment could replace the word “idea” with “suggestion” or a “thought”. These terms seem less disrupting and demand less adaptation. In some cases, downplaying the concept of an idea and addressing it as a “task” could be the factor that turns the idea into reality.

Does generating many ideas makes you feel creative? By all means, call your thoughts, suggestions, tasks “ideas” if you wish, but make sure to separate the original ideas from everything else. At the end of the day, these are the only real ones.

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