This week as I was brainstorming to come up with relevant and juicy ideas to promote a start up I suddenly wondered where my thoughts were coming from. That started me on a journey to get the inside skinny on thoughts, which are the basis of ideas, and this is my cheat sheet.
My starting point was ‘what is a thought?’ and I quickly discovered that getting a clear answer is not easy. It appears that a variety of disciplines like neuroscience, philosophy and psychology each have a perspective that differs from or opposes each other.
In fact, some may even diss my earlier thought: that a thought forms the basis of an idea.
My cheat sheet revealed
Anyhow, I turned to Tim Bayne, a philosopher of psychology, who spelled out some of his thoughts on thoughts in New Scientist. In particular, he highlighted features that make a thought a thought and I’ve summarised the ones that tackled my curiosity:
Thoughts are a mental activity. So, to use my recent brainstorming topic, I imagined myself at a property home inspection. I could see lots of people at the front gate (my perception) and I wondered when I could go inside and how long it would take for me to reach the real estate rep at the top of the stairs. These are my thoughts.
Thoughts are conscious and often unconscious. If you’ve ever had a problem and slept on it to find the answer in the morning, you’ll understand the unconscious nature of thoughts. Read more on the benefits of sleeping on a problem in an earlier post.
Thoughts and perception are different. We can think about stuff that we can’t perceive. I’m currently working on a Linked In post that talks about Captain Kirk of Star Trek and in the process my mind ventured into thoughts about space travel. I’ve got no idea what space travel looks like but I can still think about it.
Thoughts allow us to make associations and connections. Having a thought enables us to relate one situation to the next and make a connection. The ability to make connections is what science and technology rely on when inventing stuff.
Uber, an on-ground transportation service, was created after its founder thought that people needing a ride would want a different experience. From there, he made a series of connected ideas and developed an App based service focused on “moving people”.
Why Thoughts Matter
The reasons thoughts mean a lot to me are because:
- They are the basis for problem solving
- I can think anywhere, anytime
- I can make my thinking public or private
- They are the basis of ideas and creativity
So, after dipping into the research I ran into more questions on which I’d offer a penny for your thoughts:
- How do I stop my thoughts wandering?
- Is there a limit to my thoughts?
- How do I make bad thoughts go away?
Tim Bayne’s “Thought: The Inside Story”, published in New Scientist, 19 September 2013, inspired this post.
- How do you stop your thoughts from wandering?