The Power of Building on Ideas

We get ideas all the time.  Many we quickly forget or shelve and most don’t prosper beyond the fleeting thoughts they had been. 

Many ideas are originally not ours.  Many ideas we notice while interacting with other people.  We see some that seems worth the trouble to invest time and resources in such that we tell the people that we want to build from their ideas.

This is how teamwork starts.  When we build from someone else’s ideas, we say to that someone that their ideas have value. We send a message that the person we’re interacting with has value. 

It’s definitely much better than killing an idea outright, which tragically happens more often than not.  Rather than say an idea isn’t good, we ask instead “how can we build something from that idea?”  The potential answers can become endless in number as we welcome more thoughts, more ideas.

People have ideas just like we do.  And theirs can just be much better than ours.  Another way of putting it is that other people have already thought about our ideas before we came up with them. 

Many inventors build based on the ideas of others.  Many inventions are far from what they were originally thought.  Chances are, however, they developed from the tinkering and cultivating of other people’s ideas. 

The late Steve Jobs of Apple took a class on calligraphy and it is said that the class inspired him to promote the very many fonts we see on Apple’s and other manufacturers’ computers today:

“When we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

-Steve Jobs

Note that Jobs said “we designed it all into the Mac;” he and his design team members built on each other’s thoughts to bring the breakthrough of fonts into personal computers. 

We all have our ideas and some of us would like to get sole credit for the ones that develop into beneficial inventions.  But in more ways than one, inventions are likely the products of teamwork, in which individuals cooperate to share ideas and make them realities.  And the device that makes that happen is the building from each other’s thoughts. 

Invention is not a one-person job. 

About Ellery’s Essays

Published by Ellery

Since I started blogging in 2019, I've written personal insights about supply chains, operations management, & industrial engineering. I have also delved in topics that cover how we deal with people, property, and service providers. My mission is to boost productivity via offering solutions and ideas. If you like what I write or disagree with what I say, feel free to like, dislike, comment, or if you have a lengthy discourse, email me at ; I'm also on LinkedIn:

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