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Do you have what it takes to be the next Mark Zuckerberg?

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Do you have what it takes to be the next Mark Zuckerberg?

India | Red Newswire | Nov 8 2015 05:06 PM IST.

Mark Zuckerberg Red newswire
The gospel according to Mark … genius ideas are out there for the taking. Photograph: Shirish Shete/AP

We celebrate the great inventors and creators of our era, but if we’re honest, don’t we also kind of hate them a bit too? The truth about many blockbuster business ideas isn’t simply that they’re brilliant. It’s also that, with hindsight, they’re obvious. There’s nothing about the basic concept behind Facebook that I couldn’t have dreamed up myself – and yet I can’t help noticing it’s Mark Zuckerberg, not me, with the net worth of £25bn. The same questions prompted by all manner of ultra-successful apps, games, novels and television formats: “Why didn’t I think of that?” Well, sheer luck is definitely part of it: you can’t just decide to have a “Eureka!” moment. But there may be ways to seriously boost your chances.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to having a breakthrough idea is the way we romanticise breakthrough ideas – starting with the original “Eureka!” moment: Archimedes’ famous insight in the bath, which almost certainly never occurred. Instead, as the Nobel prize-winning biochemist Linus Pauling once put it, the way to get good ideas is to “have a lot of ideas and throw the bad ones away”. Begin a daily practice of listing 10 ideas, no matter how rubbish, advises the author and entrepreneur James Altucher. Then throw the list in the bin: the point is to build the idea-muscle, not to invest emotionally in any single notion.

Another thing to remember is that there’s no such thing as a totally original idea. “Say it five times out loud … Every amazing creative thing you’ve ever seen, or idea you’ve ever heard can be broken down into smaller ideas that existed before,” writes the innovation expert Scott Berkun. A car is an engine plus wheels; the telephone is electricity plus sound. Great inventions happen when the right ingredients are already in the ether, waiting to be combined. That’s one reason for “multiple discoveries” – the phenomenon whereby more than one person came up with the idea for the telephone, the theory of evolution and the jet engine, within a short time of each other. So: think of any two current high-profile successes and combine them. What about Bananagrams but with selfie sticks? It’s a terrible, incoherent idea. Good! Now think of nine more.

And Linus Pauling’s advice – to have good ideas, have lots of ideas – doesn’t merely apply to sitting alone with a notebook. It’s a whole philosophy of life. Read lots of books and you’ll vastly increase the odds of encountering the one paragraph that makes everything click into place. Have lots of conversations and you’re much more likely to have the chance conversation that changes everything. “I believe that our planet is inhabited not only by animals and plants and bacteria and viruses, but also by ideas,” declares the author Elizabeth Gilbert, in her new book on creativity, Big Magic. It’s a slightly kooky way of making an excellent point: that you’ll go further by becoming more open to ideas, or the raw ingredients of ideas, than by trying to invent them from scratch. It’s an intoxicating thought: the next Mark Zuckerberg’s big idea is already out there, maybe in several pieces. You just have to find it, then do some self-assembly. We can discuss my commission later.

 ( This article was first published on The Guardian )

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