Day 5: How to become an original thinker

Sometimes you suddenly come across someone with original ideas. I remember well when I was a student that I met a girl Renata who had such original thoughts that I often wondered how she came up with them. It are often the original thinkers that made the difference in the history of the world. Without the idea of Columbus to find an alternative route to India, we would have found America decades later. Without the cunning ideas of the business man Thomas Edison who enlightened a park in New York on new year’s eve, the start up of his light bulb company could have gone totally different. And more recently: Tim Berners-Lee used already designed technology, like hypertext, internet and multifont text objects to knit them together in 1990 which resulted in the world wide web.

But that being said, can you learn to become an original thinker that can think out of the box? I once read somewhere that psychologists that studied the work at an ordinary firm, concluded that a lot of what we do as employees is to reproduce. And that is in short the essence of life as well. We reproduce ourselves as nature does it on a bigger scale and so it is not out of the ordinary that for instance a law firm, does its job based upon reproduction, that they even eloquently call antecedency. And so being original is actually quite hard as we are wired into the system of reproduction. There are just a hand full of known original thinkers like Da Vinci, Darwin, Gandhi and Einstein.

But although it is hard to just come up with original thoughts that are not based on anything else, we can ‘trick’ ourselves a bit by finding unusual combinations. Like Berners-Lee combined already known computer technology to create the world wide web, we too can combine stuff.

Another thing we can do to end up with original ideas is to copy concepts from nature. Yes I know, that is not truly original, but nature has one huge advantage we normal humans haven’t got that much of: time. And so to think up grand ideas is easier for nature as it has ages and ages to try out new stuff. See what works and what not and building upon the better concepts of life new species. We are not as fortunate as human creatures. With exceptions, I would say that on average we have 60 years to develop new ideas. So, although being a copycat from nature can’t be seen as truly original, at least it is quicker.


  • We can learn to become an original thinker by combining what is already out there.
  • We can copy concepts from nature to try to solve a problem.

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