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You're reading: The big idea myth

We are idea machines. We come up with new ones constantly, usually at odd times and in strange places. There’s probably nothing more romantic than someone in love with an idea.

We tend to glorify flashes of genius because it’s exciting and makes a good story. However, many people with great ideas have been lost to history, while some have become famous for ideas that others had too. For better or worse, it takes more than just a clever notion to make a difference in the world.

Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, had a big idea. He thought that there were specific laws that governed how we inherit characteristics from our ancestors. He was so sure of his idea that he spent 7 years researching pea plants, wrote a paper and presented it to the local scientific society. He then went back to his duties at the abbey and was promptly forgotten.

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