Accidental Genius

A big part of being a highly realized creative person is having an open mind and being able to recognize great ideas even when you aren't looking for them, perhaps even when they are the last thing you are looking for.

New ideas come about almost entirely in one of two ways: (1) when someone thinks up a new idea and (2) when mistakes happen, that is, mistakes in action or mistakes of the mind. Most of this book is about the first method—purposefully coming up with fresh ideas. But being open to the gifts of what I call accidental genius is also a way to discover new things, and often the only effort it takes is being open to them when they present themselves. This is something that is much easier said than done for most people.

In the chapter about 180° Thinking, we talked about mistakes often leading to better results than what you had in mind when you went looking for a new idea or a solution to a problem. We cited Post-it notes and NyQuil as being two examples of unintentional 180° Thinking. These and thousands of other less purposefully discovered new ideas and new ways of thinking and doing could also be categorized as accidental genius. Here are a few other examples.

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