Where do good ideas come from? For the last several years, Steven Johnson has been investigating that very question. Specifically, what are the spaces that have historically lead to unusual rates of creativity and innovation?

And what did Steven find?  People, of course.

Say farewell to the eureka theory, because it seems great ideas rarely arrive in a flash of great insight. Great ideas prefer to simmer, incubate and marinate.

Great ideas operate on their own time frame. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, other times a few months or, in some cases, a few decades.

And perhaps most interestingly of all, great ideas play well with others. In fact, more often than not, great ideas result from the collision of smaller hunches.

As it turns out, there’s a very real chance that the missing piece of your great idea is hanging out in someone else’s head - right at this very moment - just waiting to meet you. And that meeting is a catalyst with the power to propel your idea from “hunch” to “breakthrough.”

Before we dig any further into Steven’s research, let’s take a trip back to elementary school. One of the first rules we learned was “NO TALKING.” Violate the rule, get your name on the board. Press your luck, get a check mark after it. Three times? Well, we won’t even go there, you rebel.

Now I’m going to ask you to throw away that little schoolhouse nugget forever. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Toss it out. Feel better? You should, because you are now one step closer to greatness.

You see, our teachers had it all wrong. On the quest to foster great ideas, innovation and creativity, the #1 rule should have been: MORE TALKING!

And Steven Johnson’s research agrees.

“The great driver of scientific innovation and technological innovation has been the historic increase in connectivity and our ability to reach out and exchange ideas with other people - and to borrow other people’s hunches and combine them with our hunches, turning them into something new. That, more than anything else, has been the primary engine of creativity and innovation over the last 600 or 700 years.”

And herein lies the lesson for each of us. As marketers. As CEOs. As teachers. As parents. As leaders. As human beings. Great ideas and innovation happen when hunches (and passions ...and people) collide.

Talk to your customers and fans and staff and colleagues and neighbors. Listen to what they have to say. Build unlikely partnerships and teams. Rally together. Shake things up. Encourage and enable interaction and contribution. Invite everyone to the brainstorm and to the party. You never know when or where two hunches will meet and spark the next great thing.

So there you have it. Great ideas are born when we’re busy working, playing and sharing with other people.

Which now leaves us with only one question: What are you doing still sitting at your desk?

Step out of your office. Exit the cubicle. Take a stroll down to Starbucks with your coworkers. Add your voice to a conversation. Share your hunch with someone around you. Dare to chitchat.

You may just find greatness.

Originally posted on the Brains on Fire Blog