Social networks, Collaboration and Swarms

Bouquet of Flowers in social networks
Like the flowers in a bouquet, the members in social networks are distinct in their thoughts and ideas and yet seek the companionship of one another
The purpose is to look at today’s interconnected world through the prism of social networks, swarms and collective intelligence. We keep it simple. Here you will find everything from stories on internet culture, science behind, best practices and researched opinion. Image Credit: Pixabay

Idea collaboration – Learning from inventors and scientists

idea collaboration by Inventors, vintage sewing machine

Idea Collaboration – What the inventors say


The sentence “What hath god wrought” was the first telegraphic message of the world that was sent in 1844 from the US Supreme Court premises to Baltimore in the United States. From then on it was the onset of a great invention of the Modern times which influenced the world so much. We have seen the use of the Telegraph in so many of the Hollywood’s World War movies today. But then, the question we would like to ask is, what went on those days in the minds of Inventors, Samuel Morse when he invented the telegraph? Was it a flash of creative insight? Or was it series of successive idea collaboration drawn over time that eventually went on to reveal the Telegraph. We will see that in a while.

As we seek to understand and explore these answers, they have profound impact and have great relevance for today’s problem solving methods in our workplaces and if you are an entrepreneur, it becomes much more essential to the way you work.

Similarly, there is this case of Charles Darwin who came up with the Theory of Evolution. Charles reached many dead ends but he finally came up with his significant 1859 book “On the origin of species” which changed the world overcoming previous scientific principles on the subject.

I was reading through the book “Group Genius” by Keith Sawyer. Brilliant analysis of a case study on both the inventors. Both were classic examples to prove that it is not a sudden flash of insight that happened that led to their inventions but over a long drawn case of successive idea collaboration from which the insights arose.

In the next couple of paragraphs, we will see two simple stories as examples how they can be relevant to problem solving approaches in today’s modern workplaces.  In both these examples, an important point to note is that the successive ideas happen over time. It is not instantaneous. Both the inventors had considerable time gaps before they actually came up with their breakthroughs. This time gap provided them the ample space for the discussion and successive  idea collaboration with their peers.


Learning idea collaboration from the classic examples of inventors

Telegraph pole
Telegraph pole

Samuel F Morse was an accomplished painter in his early days. He never had an idea on the workings of the electric current. He was neither trained nor educated in those fields. It was in the year of 1829, a chance meeting with another person had changed the course of events. Morse was on a ship returning back to the United States after extensive tour of Europe. During a conversational chat with a group of people on the ship he had inkling of an idea that electric current can be used to pass messages from one place to another place. The passage of the electric current was instantaneous on wires.

Learning from HBR: How to say ‘I have an idea’

I have an idea

Saying “I have an idea”, is one of the most difficult thing these days seriously particularly, when you are pitching the idea to a business crowd. This article has been republished from last year from our archives with the title ” All ideas are good, we just need to make it brilliant”.

The content has been enhanced to be more readable and actionable for the audience. I would like to thank Dr. Kimberly from Harvard Business Review from whose article I have referred content for this post.


Good ideas are everywhere. The world is replete with ideas from aspiring entrepreneurs, corporate managers to movie and ad makers. Saying ‘I have an idea’ is not enough. The hard one is the selling part.

You are supposed to sell your good ideas to a complete stranger or even to a team of decision makers. These strangers in their truest sense are actually decision makers who can either make or break your idea. In other words, these are the people, who can either leave your idea in the dumps or take it to the bigger league.

Dr. Kimberly D. Elsbach‘s article on HBR

Dr. Kimberly D. Elsbach is associate dean and a professor of organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Management, University of California.

Dr. Elsbach wrote at length about how to pitch a brilliant idea to the decision makers. This article was published in Harvard business review in the September 2003 issue. It was delightful to read through the contents of the article and we should be making use of the techniques and approaches mentioned there. You can click for the article here.

The story very well relates to the fact that there are no “good ideas or bad ideas”. All ideas are good.

The success or the failure of the idea or in other words, the idea taking off or not lies on the person who is pitching it or selling it, i.e. the pitcher.  The idea pitcher who says ‘I have an idea’, needs to be brilliant as well. It is the characteristics of the pitcher that matters.  Whether he is able to communicate his passion and articulate his idea in a convincing manner and his inherent qualities are the deciding factors.

Usually, the decision makers at the receiving end, view the idea’s worth from the pitcher’s abilities to project it “right”. The pitcher’s abilities usually overshadow the perception about the workability of the idea itself.

Pitcher Classifications

In all this milieu of things, there are some classifications that are made based on the characteristics of the pitcher.  The premise is that people generally judge us within few minutes of seeing us in action and neatly place us or classify us under some categories. So the good thing is that a pitcher needs to be wary of the fact the audience is judging and will show no mercy on that evaluation and this will have a lasting impression about the pitcher’s qualities and character.

Generally, there are no objective measures for measuring the elusive trait of creativity in a person. So the criteria for judgment is very subjective. In these scenarios, the pitcher needs to be smart to take the decision makers along with them for developing the idea during the presentation. Decision makers respond well to such suggestions on idea development.

Pitcher and stereotypes

Dr. Elsbach has made several observations of pitchers trying to communicate their ideas in a way to convince the decision makers. These observations range from the $ 50 billion US Television and the Movie Industry to other global corporate companies.

Many of us have built stereotypes on how a creative person would behave and act. Psychologically, these stereotypes play a major role in sifting through hundreds of presentations that pitchers make for the decision makers to evaluate.

Many a time, the decision makes have so much on their plate that they hardly have time to objectively evaluate the pitcher and the idea on pure merit. Rather they tend to put the pitcher in a pattern matching and typecasting fray. Such stereotyping is hardwired in the human psyche. It is rather unfair, but that’s how it has been.

Typical typecast characteristics of a creative person would be intuitiveness, sensitivity and being passionate and sometimes even youthful. These typecast are based on the direct or indirect experiences of the decision makers.

So in a typical evaluation of an idea presentation, the decision makers subconsciously award points to those pitchers who have those creative traits but punish those who do not fit or fit into negative stereotyping. A rapid process of elimination happens on the “No-Go” process based on the negative stereotypes exhibited by the pitchers.


brilliant idea for rowing
brilliant idea for rowing

When you say ‘I have an idea’, Articulate your brilliant ideas to the decision makers.

A stark observation that only 1% of the ideas make it beyond the initial pitch. And why is that?

So how do pitchers stay away from these negative stereotypes? So before we launch ourselves into the classic stereotype classification of the pitchers, let’s look at the “do’s” or “positive cues” that a pitcher needs to take care so as not to kill an idea presentation.

The pitcher needs to demonstrate passion in his ideas:

There may be times when the decision makers pinpoint concerns on the idea and doubt its execution. But it is in our best interest to safeguard our ideas or rather the concept of  ‘I have an idea’ and have a proper response on the actions and recourse that needs to be taken to make the ideas workable.

Do not present ideas in a bookish fashion:

It has been noticed that sometimes pitchers present their cases in a formulaic fashion going from one point to another. Their responses and talk are overdone and packaged from a power point presentation. We need to avoid such bookish talk. It has to be more natural, being extempore and story needs to flow.

Do not oversell:

It is better not to over-sell. Keep you calm and not be argumentative. Know when to be silent and be genuine.

Do not plead:

Have confidence. Believe in yourself and the idea. Do not keep pleading beyond a point that you need finances. Things and destiny will always take its natural course.

Have confidence. Believe in yourself and the idea. Do not keep pleading beyond a point that you need finances. Things and destiny will always take its natural course.

Important point: the pitchers need to take the decision makers along with them on the creative process. That’s the way out. ”