Original sin


I am sure you have read many times about the value of original thinking and how only a special breed of super humans like Albert Einstein or Paul McCartney that have this special and cherished gene. Original thinkers are to be revered and respected? Not true.

How many original thinkers have you met; that person who can come up with a great idea, a new perspective or a possible solution to create ease amongst the pigeons, when the cat is let out of the bag?

Do you have someone in mind - maybe yourself? Before you wrench your tennis elbow patting yourself on the back, let me just say… big deal!

The value of original thinking is in the currency it provides to buy original action. Otherwise all you have is wishing and there is nothing very original in that?

If original thinking is tantamount to wishing then my four year-old nephew is the world's greatest original thinker. But he is not a leader or a millionaire or a shaper of other people's lives - yet alone his own. He makes wishes and he expects others to fulfil them - his overworked parents mostly. That they often do their best to fulfil his dreams is the simple love of a parent for a child. I doubt your boss or colleagues love you quite that much.

If all it takes to join the likes of Paul, John, George and Ringo on the gravy train is to come up with a few ideas and allow others to fulfil my genius, then I can wish for England. Somehow though, I don't think that is what people have in mind when they talk about the great original thinkers.

If you truly think about it, each one of us is an original thinker in his or her own right. What would make us unique and ultimately worthy of the implied reverence is "original doing." What we need are people prepared to act, to turn ideas into action and action into product.

What we really must learn to appreciate is not the "original thinker" but the "original doer."

What we really must learn to appreciate is not the original thinker but the original doer

Think of all the successful people you have met that have got to the top through some kind of innovation –are you really going to tell me that they were the first one to think about it? Nonsense, they were the first one to do something about it! Or, at least do something about it effectively.

Original thinking and original doing are linked and share a cyclic partnership. Original thinking must be followed by action. When action grinds to a halt, as it does, original thinking takes its place once more to overcome the obstacle and back to action again: repeat till success.

Don't allow the baby-wishing syndrome to affect your organisation or yourself. Don't allow someone to make wishes that others must fulfil. Encourage original thinkers into becoming original doers, otherwise you will stifle one and frustrate the other.

Thinking alone never solved anything. Original thinking is not the panacea that it claims to be.

Oh, sure you will find your share of so-called admirers, the kind who applaud your creativity in public and then stifle a yawn of apathy in private. These are the same people who will laugh obsequiously at all of the boss's bad jokes, who know all the latest buzzwords and can make an interesting conversation but are rarely the people you can count on. They have joined the ride while it's easy and free, but you won't find them driving anytime soon.

You can't have the idea without the responsibility, so if you don't want to do it, don't bother thinking it. Don't pluck the fruit if you aren't hungry enough to eat it or prepared to accept the consequences. That is the road a certain Adam found himself on and I don't want you to bite from the same apple. That would be a sin.


About The Author

René Da Costa
René Da Costa

René Da Costa is an author and consultant.

Older Comments

I have long been teaching my students on the benefits of original thinking and putting it into action. I think that you have managed to put, very elegantly, the issue into context. I am going to use your arguments and article as an example in my future lectures.

M Butler, UoS

Martin Butler Sydney, NSW

For an article about 'original thinking,' this is one of the most unoriginal pieces I've ever read. The author sets up a straw man: original thinking is not enough; we must also implement, implying that people don't know this. If people actually pay to receive this kindo advice they shouldn't be in business. The fact that one must act on an idea (whether original or not) to bring it to fruition is a profound grasp of the obvious! Who doesn't understand this? Peter Drucker said it in many fewer words: 'Eventually all good ideas devolve into real work.' The article was a real waste of time.

Richard Sumpter Kansas City, KS USA

I think the previous comments made were to miss the point of what the author was suggesting. Still what do you expect from a Yank? She wasn't stating that you must do something about original thinking to make it effective, that would be obvious. The point I thought being made is that we assume that it is those people who shout about their ideas the loudest are the ones who deserve to get all the credit even if they don't actually do any of the work. It is the people who carry out the work that should benefit from the acclaim. People like you and me not the leaders who utter a few well chosen words and retire to the boardroom for a 5 course dinner.

Charlotte Eames England

Yes we all know we need to do something about ideas, but how many of us actually do that? I think this is the point being made here that we revere the people who come up with ideas not the people who carry them out. I wonder if the guy before actually puts ideas into action or just shouts his mouth off - the perfect example? He can quote Peter Drucker (who can't) but what has he done about it?

James Lester Washington