IDEATION NATION

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If Descartes were alive today, I believe he would take offense at the expression: "I was just thinking." Just thinking sounds like your car engine is stuck in neutral. This idle thought denigrates you as a thinker and makes light of your mind, which produces over 50,000 thoughts a day - many of which could be worth millions. Today, ideas are gold, and great thinking is the most valuable commodity of all. That's why Fortune 500 companies are seeking those thinkers whose thoughts motivate, inspire and ignite minds. Welcome to Ideation Nation where, as Albert Einstein prophesied, imagination would be more important than knowledge. What Einstein failed to predict, however, is that the prophets would finally receive the profits. Prophets are the vanguard of the new Idea Society where the company with the most ideas wins. Economic prosperity in the 21st century will come from the visionaries and innovators. And vision and innovation will come from courageous thinkers. Operational efficiency is no longer a destination; it's a dead end. The ability to create better ideas than the competition is the only sustainable competitive advantage a company can have, and the only way that company will have a future. No one will be able to get too much beyond the year 2000 on cruise control.

Tomorrow's problems look very much like today's, but the solutions will be arrived at by different means and divergent minds. Extensional and linear thinking will continue to create incremental success. Divergent and quantum thinking will create monumentalism, or what we call today, the Big Ideas. My company, BrightHouse, charges clients up to $1 million for one idea. For now, that is fair remuneration, but as the world becomes more competitive and the demand for out-of-the-box thinking becomes the rule rather than the exception, the price will go up.

So now you're thinking, "How can I become a divergent thinker?" Here are my five ideas for creating ideas that create value:

1. Create yourself. Everyone has a pool of untapped creativity. What puts ideas into action, however, is courage. The courage to be your authentic, creative self and express it with glory. The fastest way to enormous net worth is to increase your self-worth.

2. To create great ideas, create many of them. Charlie Chaplin defined genius as the ability to edit.

3. Never give away your ideas. People believe that they get what they pay for. If it's nothing to you, it's nothing to them.

4. The tragedy in our lives is not reaching high and failing, but reaching low and succeeding. Take risks!

5. Use the eraser before the pen. Throw out all rules, including these five. Any path someone shows you has already been taken. The bottom line is that your ideas can impact the bottom line.

But before you become a prophet, you must charge a profit.

I'm reminded of a story about a famous celebrity hairdresser who got a frantic call from a woman needing her hair styled immediately for an important gala that evening. The hairdresser rushed to the woman's home, asked for a ribbon, and proceeded to create his masterpiece using only a brush and the ribbon. Thirty minutes later her hair was done, and she was dazzled. "How much do I owe you?" she asked. "Two thousand dollars," he replied. She was stunned. "That's outrageous," she said. "I'm not going to pay $2,000 for a ribbon." He looked at her coolly, gave the ribbon a quick tug, and watched his masterpiece instantly unravel into a shaggy mop of unruly curls and locks. "That's fine," he said. "The ribbon is free." Today American enterprise is primarily based on the value of ribbons; not just the hairdresser's ribbon, but all things we can touch - tangibles like bricks and mortar and fancy buildings and 30-second spots. That's about to change. Today currency is the idea, but tomorrow ideas will be the currency. The insanely competitive, invent-it-today, reinvent-it-tomorrow world of business can no longer rely solely on capital, raw materials, and technology. Everyone has that stuff. It must now mine and pay for the greatest gem of all - the idea. No one just thinks, any more than they are just living. In fact, thinking is living, and now you can make a living at it, too.

Joey Reiman (jreiman@brighthouse.com) is the author of Thinking for a Living: Creating Ideas That Revitalize Your Business, Career & Life. He is the founder/CEO of BrightHouse, a marketing consultancy.

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