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How to invent new ideas? Philosophy can help us.
In a recent brainstorming on ‘Reflexive capacity tools’ for our e-learning module on Future studies, our team focused on two aspects: how to invent a new idea and how to compose the general idea into a specific and concrete task, in our case a new business.
These seem banal questions, but central to our ‘reflexive capacity toolbox’: in order to have a successful enterprise, we need to have an innovative, challenging idea to constitute its seed. But how to teach to invent new ideas? This is one of the most difficult tasks, it seems to jump into the void. Also because we need to shape our e-learning module by keeping together a triangle: academics-students-entepreneurs. How can this triangle function, that is how can an academic lead a student to have an innovative and challenging idea, and an entrepreneur take this same student to the realization of that idea into a successful enterprise?
We took the example of the formation of a concept from a discipline – philosophy – which is not so much used these days but which we value as important at this stage of our task. Why? Because philosophy is the discipline which invents new thought and as such it can be taught, that is, it can be used in other fields as an instrument to ease innovation.
The formation of a concept is its first brick. In our case we saw that we can think of the seed of a new enterprise as a newly born concept. That is, to learn how a new concept is formed can help us in learning how to have an innovative idea.
The concept, main element of thought, is a ‘cipher’: it is a compound of various and different components which aggregate in it as ‘cipher’ and define a ‘whole’ but a whole which can be fragmentary, can keep together differences and make them fruitful, productive…The concept is a cipher under which many components are assembled. This cipher totalizes its components, even if the whole which comes out of it is a fragmentary whole (see G. Deleuze and F. Guattari, What is philosophy, 1991)
Think of the idea of your new company as a concept: one element comes to be composed with others, to form an assemblage, a cipher, which is productive… this is the core of the idea of the enterprise. To learn how to form a concept can enable us to invent the idea of a new business.
The second point, how to pass from a general idea of an enterprise to an innovative particular embodiment of that enterprise, took also much time of our brainstorming. Many instruments for our toolbox came out. Here we mention just one: the importance of the combination of knowledge and ethics.
Knowledge is the ‘human capital’ that each one brings to the new enterprise. It is the special individual aspect that will constitute the object of our future work, of our future production, what distinguishes each one of us.
Ethics, or as we defined it in the brainstorming: reflecting on one’s own value, on one’s own ethical stance – should be inserted into the drawing of the enterprise’s idea, in the same way in which we pay attention today to sustainability towards the environment. Today we cannot avoid the ethical dimension of economy and of socio-economical actors. The sooner the students who want to become entrepreneurs see this and learn to improve their own ethics, the better for our common future.