Tl;dl: Freakonomics interviews people who got great ideas

Freakonomics on good ideas

“368. Where Do Good Ideas Come From?” from Freakonomics Radio by Stitcher on Apple Podcasts

Discover the hidden side of everything with Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books. Each week, Freakonomics Radio tells you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) – from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything.



Prepared mind

Distinctive action

Margaret Geller – feeling free. So an idea can come

  • structured the shortcut approach to a view
  • Used a new tech 
  • Had a new map of the cosmos

George Dyson – tried 5,127 times to improve the vacuum

  • Saw something badly designed
  • Saw a factory that had a good process for sucking out dust 
  • 5 years of tinkering and he got the vacuum

Christophe Nieman – combinatorial formula for freshness

  • Prompted with a topic like a headline
  • X suggests these symbols
  • Y suggests these symbols
  • Spin them together
  • Consider complications of X and Y as symbols
  • Try to combine them and another new direction is revealed

The cue –

  • Intrinsic motivation. Making for yourself. More creative. (Advertising people say their greater passion is for their art school passions, which advance more slowly though)
  • Extrinsic motivation. Making for a requirement. Less creative. But constraints help you ship. 

Michael Beirut – pentagram designer, an extrinsic motivation from clients. 

  • Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”
  • Work and be ready so when the assignment comes you can invent the solution. 

Ann Pasternak – Ex-CreativeTime, Brooklyn Museum

  • giving a commission:

Charlotte Niemuth – HBS Prof on designing a creative team

  • Size is 5. Not more than 7
  • Start by discussion in group of problem
  • Then separate individual proposal development
  • Then bring back together
  • Team emergent phenomena
  • Brainstorming: the key to brainstorming is shutting down dissent said originator Osborne; permitting criticism/debate caused better more creative sessions in experiments or in juries. Less debate = less quality of investigation. Even when the dissenter is wrong; it’s important because it challenges your thinking. 
  • Eg Troublemakers help

Ai Wei Wei – troublemaking

  • his family style 
  • Had little to say on where his ideas come from

Jorinde Voigt – Berlin artist

  • subconscious

Maira Kalman 

  • what you feel in your gut
  • my own feelings, subconscious 

Conan O’Brien

  • responding to a good idea, improvisation
  • Travel

Roseanne Cash

  • Museums

Jennifer Egan – 

  • responding to other work
  • Non-repetition 
  • People watching at baseball games

Saul Perlmutter – find mind-boggling stuff. Being boggled.