Thoughts / The value of a seed / October 28, 2007

What is the value of an idea?

According to me, it is very close to none, null, zit, nada, cero, niente. And if you have had some, you know what I mean. We all have ideas. Some of us constantly. Some others every day. Some every some minutes. We have many ideas a day. Sometimes we don’t even notice.

These ideas usually take the form of solving a problem we have, or that someone else has. It starts to have a shape. It seems plausible. Then it seems possible. It might stay around for a while. Some of those ideas are rediscovered with time, some are immediate. Some haunt you, some are haunted by you.

Then it arrives: the time when it is solid enough for you to decide to keep it. You start thinking about it. You might (intelligently) start discussing it with others. If you don’t, it must probably die, unless it is one of those one-person idea. It seems smart enough. Damn, sometimes it seems amazing!

You start sensing a possible space for it. It might take some minutes, a day, a month, but you feel there’s a space, a market, a weight for it. You might even research if there’s a space for it. It itches. It feels like it’ll wake you up if you don’t pay attention to it. You think you have a ripe idea. What to do then? Keep it. It is your idea, after all.

This is what really happens:

Our mind is a complex, intriguing, wonderful thing. And it is our best friend, believe it or not. Why? Because it cares so much about us, it even bends reality to prove us right. Back at architectural school, the first thing everyone of us used to discover is that once you have a spatial idea for a building, it seems that suddenly it all makes sense (in your mind): corridors, services, spaces, structure. It all found and had its place in the complex system of connections. It seemed plausible. Then you started sketching, planning and drawing, and you discovered that those corridors did not make sense, that space for services was not there, and if it was, sometimes they were better somewhere else. That the structural array was impossible in that configuration of spaces. That entrances, aisles and doors were better some other way. That spaces did not completely satisfy the brief. So you started the second and most important part of designing: the design process itself.

If ideas had an intrinsic value, design will not be that important a process. It is in the detailed drawings and models, in the relational sketches, in the sections and even in the material selection where an idea starts making sense, having a life of its own. Being something more than an idea. Becoming a product.

After a couple of weeks perhaps, you (luckily) had a possible project in your hands, usually so different to your idea that you could but barely recognise it in the ink drawings and the cardboard scaled walls and ceilings.

Ideas are like seeds, small and concentrated amounts of energy that need to grow into trees. But as ideas, seeds need to develop, need the effort and the energy to grow, need water and sun and soil. Need, most of all, time to evolve.

All healthy seeds might represent a future tree. One seed is not worth a tree, but with the necessary amount of time and support, it might become one. It is, however, the tree that has all the value.

Take your ideas as seeds, select the ones you want to grow, and make them into wonderful trees. And if you feel like not growing it, share it for someone else to grow it, as their value is in becoming trees.

Just don’t sit on those seeds. Unsurprisingly, they won’t hatch by themselves.