We say we want people to think big, or outside the box, but we don’t. We want to believe we celebrate the most creative innovation, but we don’t. We can’t. It’s too dangerous. We know that big ideas—real innovation threatens the way we understand the world and our place in it. Remember how people voted for change a while back? Oops. Watch what you wish for.
It’s too bad. Big ideas feel when we don’t duck them. It’s an acquired taste. Imagine a big gnarly idea hurtling through space and on a collision course with your head. It’s threatening you directly. It’s going to wreak havoc. It could change everything—things you’d like to change and things you don’t. Things are getting dicey. It’s getting close. Its light rakes across your old ideas with a color that’s alien—it comes from a strange angle. Your older, trustworthy ideas are casting unfamiliar shadows on the inside of your skull and revealing forms you’ve never seen before. With a flash the big idea whooshes past your head. You lose your footing as it tugs you in behind it like a speeding tractor-trailer passing you on the highway. You’re shaken—wide-eyed. You watch as it quickly recedes into the distance—moving fast and cutting a wide arc out over the trinkets on your bookshelf and then the trees across the road. For a moment it disappears from sight. All is quiet. Then it reappears. It’s circling back. Sure enough, it’s heading right toward you—bearing down—growing in size. There’s no escape this time; it’s going to hit you. There’s nothing you can do. Desperate, you dismiss it and it disappears. It made no sense at all—none whatsoever. It was foolish. People have tried to think like that before and we’ve all seen the result. You’re not going to be sucked in. Having taken the trouble to educate yourself, you can see the folly. You’re in a room with others, so you try to be polite. You drag a potato chip through the onion dip, trying to look like you’re still entertaining the idea. But please, it was silly. Laughable.
Turning to find something worthy to engage in, you can’t help but notice that things are not quite right—not quite as they should be. It appears that all of your ideas—the ones you’ve come to rely upon suddenly seem to have hairline cracks running through them—their surfaces crazed with fractures branching out in all directions. Some might be cracked right through! But how can this be? How could it have done all that? The so-called “big idea” wasn’t even here that long. Besides, there are several reasons it doesn’t even qualify as an idea—not really, so it can’t possibly have caused this much damage. Pausing to think, you look up toward the corner of the room where the walls meet the ceiling. There’s the top of the hanging plant and some shadows cast from a tree branch bobbing in the wind outside. A moment passes, then you feel it growing—expanding from a place in your center. It’s a deepening sensation. But it can’t be. It missed you. You are unscathed. Did it plant something when it passed? Somehow it must have dropped a seed of some kind. Now the attic of your old ideas is filling up with super fluid—something liquid but also firm and surprisingly colorful—even glowing. The cracking forms are now being buoyed up—they’re floating, rolling over and turning in the eddies.
They’re starting to merge with one another in new ways. Their forms are changing and their surfaces are melding. You sense a new kind of light. Sounds bounce around differently. It’s like you’re in the same house but have been moved to a different street—brighter than in the old neighborhood. You feel more present. A wave of energy is rippling through you. You’re calm, but electric. Humming. The earth feels more solid and you breathe the smell of rich soil. Your eyes are wet but you’re smiling. It’s all making sense. You wonder if anyone else is seeing it too and you want to share—to help them feel what you’re feeling. If only you’d known you wouldn’t have been afraid. It seems so obvious now. Broken pieces fit together and have become useful.
You easily go on about your business as if nothing happened, but inside, you know, and nothing will ever be the same.