What’s the difference between a good idea and bad idea? Well, there are a lot of possible answers. The easiest one is that a good idea is, well, good. A good idea resonates within its given community. It has legs. People like it. They get behind it. They support it. They own it. Why? Because the idea fills a need in that particular community. Now, let’s look at a bad idea. It’s bad because it doesn’t resonate. It hits discordant notes within the community that it should benefit. Because of this, the bad idea doesn’t gain as much support as the good idea. The good idea is accepted, the bad idea isn’t.

Now this process isn’t relative or literal. Some communities can agree on what are perceived to be good ideas when in fact they are bad ideas. History is littered with examples of this behavior. Back in the 19th and early 20th centuries medicines were filled with substances that are now illegal. Cola soft drinks actually contained cocaine. Cough syrups actually contained heroin. Did they work? Of course they did. Were they good ideas? At the time, yes. In retrospect, no.

Good ideas depend upon the social context they were formed in. Gladiator fights to the death were a solid idea back in ancient Rome. Today, an idea for these types of fights probably needs a bit of rethinking. In the same vein, human sacrifice was once a great way to avoid bad karma and guarantee an ample crop to boot. Today, we know that the act of killing someone has no direct relation to the weather or the price of tea in China. The point here is that our accepted social behavior may have adapted, but the motivators that govern our actual behavior haven’t kept up the pace.

Your brain is an idea machine. It will constantly observe the environment, take in information and try to make connections between what was observed and what was already observed. These connections are the source of rational thought. They are also the source of creative thought. The difference between rational and creative thought is direction. Rational thought will always try to match like to like. Creative thought, on the other hand, will sometimes try to match like with what seems to be unlike. Be open to these moments, no matter how ridiculous they may seem at the time. Ideas are formed when the creative brain realizes that what appeared to be like/unlike is actually like/like when seen from a new perspective.