How to Spark a Truly Great Idea

Sep 21, 2020

How to Spark a Truly Great Idea

Big ideas are everywhere. In some ways, they’re like butterflies, and you’re a lepidopterist (a fancy word for “butterfly collector”). Lepidopterists know that thousands of butterflies are fluttering around their area at any given time—the challenge is to come across the right one at the right time. If you have your net and show up ready for action, the thrill of the hunt can lead to a stunning discovery.

So how do you chase down the right ideas? Well, as any lepidopterist will tell you, it’s not always the distance covered that truly matters. Your ultimate butterfly could come flying by while you’re sitting on a rock, admiring the movement of the trees in the afternoon breeze. You may have been looking elsewhere and thinking about other things, but as long as you have your net handy, the results could be successful.

“Recently a Dutch TV crew came to my home for an interview about my latest research in astronomy,” recalls physicist Abraham Loeb. “When I told them I get many of my new ideas in the shower, they decided to film a scene showing the shower still running and me rushing from the bathroom, dressed in a robe, to my computer. But despite their best efforts, there was no way for them to get a visual of my ideas and where they actually come from. The same video could have been made with the previous occupant of the house who shared none of my scientific ideas. He and I happened to use the same shower, eat in the same kitchen and sleep in the same bedroom, altogether sharing the same spaces (at different times) but with very different outcomes.”

Why is Loeb able to conjure big ideas in the shower? It helps that he’s a brilliant Harvard professor. But more importantly, he keeps his mind open to new ideas—even during mundane tasks such as his morning shower. And when ideas hit, he bolts from the bathroom to record them before they flutter from his memory. In this way, Loeb is as much a lepidopterist as he is a physicist.

It’s not hard to imagine ideas having a life (and mind) of their own. If they trust you, they’ll grace you with their presence. The more you take thoughtful action based on them, the sooner they’ll return.

In the business world, ideas can have immense value. But the best ideas need to be matched with the burning fire of entrepreneurship. If you’re not committed to seeing them through, there’s little chance of success. As the Vikings of old burned their ships to prevent an early departure from their excursions, so must you eliminate escape routes so that you’ll follow through on greatness.

“If you don’t have that burning, personal desire to see your concept come to fruition, we don’t recommend pursuing your startup idea,” says Inc. “That’s because the early days of starting a company are notoriously difficult. You might find yourself questioning whether you’ve made the right call. That’s especially true as the months or years drag on, and you’ve decided to quit a lucrative career, invest personal savings, and sacrifice time away from family to chase your dream.”

It’s clear that commitment is essential. Here are some ways to come up with big ideas worth committing to.

About the Author

Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on and Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

See all articles by this author

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