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The Content Debate: There is no Such Thing as an Original Idea

We argue that originality is both real and essential – online and off
To deny originality is to deny humanity. Every step of human evolution – even, thanks to Charles Darwin, the concept of human evolution – has been marked by an original idea. The use of tools, of weapons, the invention of the wheel; these weren’t merely useful fiddlings that happened to catch on in the prehistoric, pre-marketing era, these were species-defining, epoch-making ideas of unparalleled originality.
It is man’s ability to think, to conceptualise, to come up with ideas over and above and in spite of our natural instincts that sets us apart from the other animals. If it weren’t for original ideas, we’d still believe the earth was flat and the sun revolved around it. If it weren’t for original ideas, we wouldn’t have electricity, computers, cars, an 80-year life expectancy…
My colleague Bek has argued persuasively that ‘we are informed, inspired and influenced by the world around us’. And certainly many inventions and developments – including electricity, computers, cars and an 80-year life expectancy – owe much to what has gone before. Isaac Newton himself, a man often held up as the epitome of an original thinker, said: ‘If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’.
Original content challenges the status quo
But, and here’s the rub, those giants (both before and after Newton’s time) were and are the people who can imagine what others cannot. They were the Platos, the Archimedeses, the Copernicuses, the Gallileos, the da Vincis, the Mozarts, the Shakespeares, the Darwins, the Marxes, the Einsteins, the Lennons, the Berners-Lees, the Jobses… They are people who push boundaries, who challenge the status quo, who are not afraid to fail. Remarkable people, all of them, but people none the less.
Originality and inspiration comes from within, not without. The notion that the cure for cancer is floating around some cosmic ideas pool just waiting to be accessed is both comforting and cruel. Because if that is the case, presumably that ideas pool can be accessed by anything with a consciousness. And it would be both unfair and pointless if an amoeba plucked it out of the ether.

Original thought is a human trait, but not everyone is capable of it. Or, at least, not everyone is willing to stand out from the crowd, risking ridicule or abuse or even death, for espousing original ideas. Which is what makes original thinkers so remarkable and so important.
Online content has become unoriginal
Genuine originality – as opposed to Lady Gaga contrived originality – can shock, scare, attract and repel, but it always fascinates. For all its strengths, the Internet’s global accessibility and interactivity has homogenised the ideas process, which is perhaps why Bek doubts the existence of original thought.
But let’s not forget that the Internet itself sprang from an original idea, which surely means, then, that the issue is not the perceived absence of online originality, but the fact that the Net is not utilising and promoting originality to maximum effect, so that everything from ideas to companies can stand out from the crowd.
Global warming, peak oil, international inequality… these are all the by-products of original ideas thought up and worked on by humans. It will take more original ideas to find the solutions to them. Both online and off, originality is not only real, it’s essential.
To read the other side of the debate, click here.
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Image: h.koppdelaney & www.ideiademarketing.com.br

The Content Debate: There is No Such Thing as an Original Idea (part 2)

The other side of the argument is that all content producers are simply tapping into the universal content consciousness
There’s no such thing as an original idea these days. In fact – there never has been, but the ubiquity of social media and the saturation of content in our lives make it truer now than ever. We are so informed, inspired and influenced by the world around us that creativity is simultaneously owned by everyone and no-one.
Bloggers, journalists and other social commentators will have experienced the phenomenon of moving in a common direction or exploring ‘new’ ideas at the same time as their peers to produce content that reflects similar concepts.
This isn’t plagiarism. It isn’t copying. It isn’t even derivative. It is simply an example of content producers tapping into the global inspiration pool – or, to put it another way, the universal content consciousness that exists everywhere at all times. Far from trying to reject this metaphysical library of ideas (which is impossible in any case), people are finding new ways to share and access it.
We’re willingly uploading inspiration in more ways than ever before, fuelled by the possibilities afforded us by social media. Here are two examples of websites that help you embrace it.

Pinterest is a fascinating website with a great concept behind it. If you’re someone who loves coming across inspiring or thought-provoking content online, Pinterest is the site for you.
Developed with inspiration in mind, the creators of Pinterest encourage us to ‘think of [the site] as a virtual pinboard – a place where you can create collections of things you love and “follow” collections created by people with great taste.’
Basically, Pinterest is like a visual Twitter, where you can share images you find beautiful or meaningful and watch as others do the same. It’s a brilliant way to collect the things that plant the seeds of inspiration all in one place, where you can access them when you’re in need.
Ideas are funny visitors. They arrive at the most inopportune times… like when we’re in the shower with no pen, or when we’re about to fall asleep and can’t muster up the energy to jump out of bed and tackle them head on.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in a TED Talk ‘A New Way to Think About Creativity’ expanded on the concept of ideas being fleeting, momentary visitors, and content producers such as poets and musicians and artists simply being the earthly vessel to get them heard.

Whether or not you subscribe to this view, it’s fact that ideas come and go. Wridea is a website that could put an end to this particular problem Described as a ‘free online idea management and collaboration service’ (don’t you just love the concept?), Wridea lets you record fleeting thoughts and inspiration and organise ideas by keyword or category. It also allows you to ask for help and join collaborations.
Memories fail us and are unreliable. With Wridea, all the brilliance that visits you momentarily can be instantly recorded for later use (and yes, it is available in app form), which means now your only obstacle to greatness will be figuring out how to take your iPhone in the shower with you…
•    The counter-argument will be posted in the next post.

The Message is brought to you by Tick Yes – providing solutions for all your digital and content marketing needs.