Adapt to Experience
Vague Ideas - The courage to explore uncertainty

  Understanding the lessons your life is teaching you.  

  Elephant Mapping

  Personal Learning


 * ** ** ** ** *

  Related Ideas
   Innovation No2

All new ideas have a beginning somewhere.  The history of innovative ideas is littered with examples of innovations that first arose in the mind of the innovator 10 or 20 years previously.  Our best really good ideas don't come fully formed, or named, or with clear benefit.  They are fleeting, vague and hard to grasp. 

New ideas appear in a flash and vanish just as quickly.  They defy description.  Hopefully, the best of these ideas return again and again. 

It takes courage to put time and effort into exploring such vague ideas; to turn them into a strong, practical idea with a clear use value.  I call this process "Elephant Mapping" based on the idea of a blind man trying to imagine what an elephant is like, by exploring it's parts with his hands.  This new idea is an unexplored territory, you can't yet tell how big it is or what advantages or disadvantages it may hold.  To begin to understand you need a "map" to explain what you are exploring. 

The "map" is only a plan of the territory.  The history of innovation is littered with first "maps" that were wrong in some critical way.  Every innovation has a "hiding hand" somewhere.  As a result the innovator has unexpected problems.  There is often a reluctance to examine and revise the "map" since so much depends on the "map" being right. 

Think of your new concept as a "elephant" and try to understand what it's really like. 

Mind Map
mind map
Mapping the Territory

Sources of Creativity

Novelist Amy Tan digs deep into the creative process, looking for hints of how hers evolved.

She talks a great deal about what I call the vague idea, which I believe is the beginning of all our creative thoughts.  Like myself Amy Tan also gets inspiration from the ideas of particle physics.

For me she confirms that the vague idea is elusive and uncertain and mysterious.  Sometimes, if you try too soon to capture it, it vanishes althgether.  In our creative work we make our vague ideas visible.  

Amy Tan is the author of such beloved books as The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God's Wife and The Hundred Secret Senses.