Monday, June 27, 2011

Idea Fisching

Idea Hunters frequently rely on metaphorical thinking to help them gain insights that would otherwise be invisible. The utility of such an approach was brought home to me again last week when I was trout-fishing in the Adirondacks with my son [pictured]. Our guide, Rachel Finn, is a woman who has an MA in Fine Arts from Yale, and an uncanny ability to read a stream in the search for fish.
In helping me better understand where the most promising fishing spots were, Rachel shared three pieces of advice that I believe are perfect for idea-hunting as well:

  1. Fish where the stream's volume of flow is the greatest, as more volume produces more opportunity for more nourishment. Same for ideas! The Idea Hunter wants to position themself in the most likely place to get ideas -- the fast flows where ideas are abundant, rather than the slowest, least likely places where ideas might be found.

  2. Fish the creases -- those subtle changes in speed, or seams- edges - contours- -- between fast water and slow water. Same for ideas! The Idea Hunter is looking for those neighborhoods where different flows of ideas come together. Diversity matters, and hunting for ideas in the same fast moving flows as everyone else is not going to yield different opportunities.

  3. Fish closer before you cast further out. The point here is to ensure exploiting every opportunity close in, before casting further out. Same with ideas! Make sure that you are getting every idea you can from your familiar idea-sources, before you expend resources on more exotic locations.

Metaphors help us see opportunities that are otherwise invisible. Be it fishing or hunting, new ideas are more likely to be found by the thoughtful observer.

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