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There Is No Such Thing As A New Idea, And That's Ok.

It's time to think differently about what is a new original idea. Instead of creating something entirely from scratch, focus on finding fresh connections between existing ideas. By combining pre-existing elements in innovative ways, you can create something unique that has never been seen before!

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
3 min read
There Is No Such Thing As A New Idea, And That's Ok.
There is no such thing as a new idea, and that's ok. All ideas are inspired. 

As innovators, we push ourselves in the hunt for new innovative ideas that will change the world. We strive for that original idea and the praise that comes with it. Just like the innovators before us who came up with what many consider an original idea and were celebrated as pioneers and trailblazers.

But what if I told you there is no such thing as a new idea? Would you believe me?

I am not saying that all the good ideas have been used up, and nothing new and original is left. What I am saying is we need to adjust our definition of the term "new idea."

Changing The Definition

When most people hear that something is a new idea, they assume that the idea is fully original, never conceived or thought of before. That is not the case.

All ideas are inspired by ideas from the past. Everything we know has been inspired by something else. We just haven't realized it yet. For instance, the Harry Potter storyline is not a new idea. It's Star Wars set with wizards with what some point out as "funny looking lightsabers." Sorry for the spoiler if you are a Harry Potter fan.

The new definition we need to understand is that new ideas are the result of uniquely combining what has come before to create a new idea.

Ideas are inspired by other ideas, which is why our brains are wired to connect the dots between different concepts. It is how we solve problems, innovate, and create new solutions. It's not about starting from scratch; it is about picking up threads from the past and weaving them together in a new form.

"No idea can truly be considered new."

Examples of New Ideas

Examples of new ideas inspired by the past abound throughout history, from the invention of the automobile to the creation of modern technology. Here is a list of some examples of how people have taken past ideas and combined them into something entirely new.

  • Picasso's famous painting, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", is often regarded as a revolutionary artwork that broke away from existing conventions. The painting was inspired by African tribal masks and Cubist techniques, combining elements of both to create something new. This dynamic mix of two distinct art forms created an entirely original image.
  • The popular film series "The Fast and the Furious" was inspired by the classic 1961 song "(Ghost) Riders In The Sky: A Cowboy Legend".
  • Rock and roll music is often seen as an entirely original genre, but it is actually a combination of two pre-existing genres: blues and country.
  • The modern credit card was created by combining two existing ideas: the use of plastic for payments and the concept of revolving accounts with a given credit limit.
  • Disney's animated movie Frozen was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of "The Snow Queen," which had been adapted into many forms over time before it became a full-length feature film from Disney.

Finding Inspiration in New Combinations

Innovation is not about creating something entirely new but finding fresh connections between different concepts. This approach of connecting ideas allows us to create something fresh that builds on inspirations from the past.

So don't get discouraged when you can't come up with something totally original; instead, look for creative ways to combine existing ideas in innovative and exciting ways. It is a new idea as long as it has not been done before.


The quest for a new, groundbreaking idea is futile because there is no such thing as a new idea. All ideas are inspired by what has come before us, and it's ok that they are. Rather than searching for something entirely new, we should look for inspiration from the past by connecting previously unrelated concepts to create something novel and groundbreaking.

So, the next time you're working on a new project or idea, remember it's not about starting from scratch. It's about finding fresh connections between ideas and building on what already exists. There's no need to put pressure on yourself to create something entirely new because that's an impossible task. Instead, focus on finding the best combination of concepts to create an innovative solution.


Phil McKinney Twitter

Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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