Where do new ideas come from?
Such a question may sound strange to us, especially in our Guyanese society still obsessed with the little things of daily existence. Yet, in this Age of Knowledge, the question of the origin of new ideas becomes important.

An original idea has the power to totally transform a person’s life. One good idea could see you achieve all your dreams and aspirations.  In fact, one simple original idea could transform all of society. Some new original ideas that totally transform our world include: Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Ipad, Kindle and Blackberry. Before our time there was Henry Ford’s idea of a car; Alexander Graham Bell’s idea of a telephone, the Wright’s brothers and their airplane – all just within the last 125 years – and so on. Original ideas make the world we live in.

If we can germinate and cultivate new ideas into workable solutions, our society would leap ahead to embrace the stunning opportunities available to us in this 21st century global village.

One day Jules Barnes, Stabroek News’ photographer, introduced me to a rugged snow cone vendor who was pushing his three-wheel cart on Brickdam Avenue in front of the High Court. Jules found it fascinating that the guy had designed and built his own ice shaver.  He took a picture of him.

We have countless stories of ordinary people all over this country who find new ways to make things work. I heard a story of a car owner who used a piece of string to operate his brakes. How he did it I have no clue, but he drove his car as a taxi every day.

Yet, we live in a society with little regard or respect for such an intangible resource as a new, original idea, or a cool innovation, or a creative solution. The private sector is supposed to be the fertile ground for nurturing initiative. A small business owner transforms society with a simple thing: an original idea.

Where, however, do we see new original thinking in our society?

The private sector economy in Guyana comprises stores on Regent and Robb streets selling clothes, food or furniture. Our largest companies manufacture alcohol as their core business. The average private business cares not to cultivate ideas, innovation and creation. It’s all about “making money” and nothing else. A business, however, must have a social conscience, a care for its society, a reaching out to embrace the space in which it does business.

We do not see new original business models sweeping this country. Why? The country suffers from a lack of original thinking. Where are those gifted leaders who embrace educated imaginations of gifted people to inspire us to great solutions to overcome our problems?

Northrop Frye’s book based on lectures he gave, ‘An Educated Imagination’, paints a glorious portrait of a culture that focuses on its creative spirit, cultivating an imagination that propels people forward into new creations.

Frye’s fame centres on literature. But his thinking applies well to all aspects of society. We must each of us cultivate an educated imagination.

Frye’s book details how this society can accomplish that task. In our schools, we must expose our young people to the tools that would fuel their imaginations. We must cultivate their minds for creative living. We must instill in our kids a love for original ideas.

I would suggest to the Education Minister that stalwarts such as Henry Jeffrey, Ian McDonald, Yesu Persaud, Faith Harding and so many more outstanding thinkers, be asked to give lectures to high school kids all over this country – to stir their enthusiasm, to inspire in their young minds a love for achievements of outstanding value to the society, to love original ideas and creative thinking.

Our society must learn to cultivate a national habit in individuals to embrace innovation.
At the University of Guyana, hundreds of graduates every year research and write research papers. Many of these comprise original ideas and new, creative solutions to problems besetting the society.

Would it serve us to establish a UG Council to look over these papers and identify original ideas for development?

Such a strategy would see innovation and commercialization fuel a new enthusiasm, a new vibrancy, a new active participation in the governing of this land. Our graduates would feel personally responsible for the development of this land, if they can see their original ideas becoming fruitful.

Could the Office of the President set up an Innovation and Commercialization Council to cultivate original ideas and creative thinking in this country?

I recognize that Guyana faces a terrible brain drain. The social devastation this country suffers from after over more than five decades of poor governance causes the human resource capital base of this country to collapse. All across the land, in the private and public sectors, poor people skills pervasively irritate the nation.

Nowhere more pronounced is this lack of qualified, competent human resource skills than in the government. Many Ministers got their jobs not because of merit but as political appointees. Thus, incompetence has become pervasive across the government.

Some Ministers are highly qualified and in their own rights are sound academics, but in office as State officials too many of them fail to live up to the demanding task of building a nation in the 21st century global village. Too many Ministers do not portray an educated imagination, in a world that demands innovative thinking, original ideas and creative solutions.

Another source of original ideas could be the diaspora. Guyanese who have migrated live and dwell in sophisticated societies where original thinking and creative innovation have become the norm. Many live this way almost instinctively.

Jamaica sets an example for the Caribbean in this regard, having even an Upper Chamber in the Jamaica Parliament for overseas-based Jamaicans to contribute to the island’s development with their original ideas.

Could the Guyana Parliament develop such an initiative?
This country could benefit from overseas Guyanese starting innovations here, if the Government can embrace the vision of building an Innovation and Commercialization culture. Many people could develop original ideas. We could see companies started here in Georgetown, in New Amsterdam, in Linden, in Anna Regina, in Parika, innovate. We could even develop a system to allow these companies to do Initial Public Offerings as Public Companies on the world’s stock exchanges.

Toronto and New York have ‘penny stocks’ – small stock exchanges – that would welcome small companies seeking to trade their stocks internationally. So does Frankfurt, Germany, to tap into European capital.

I long for the day when this society would embrace cultivating original ideas, new innovations and the commercialization of intellectual wealth and applicable knowledge. With such a culture, grown out of a national drive to develop an educated imagination in our education institutions, the country would leap ahead into 21st century glory.

Original ideas, innovation thinking and creative solutions flow out of a people cultivating an educated imagination. And this global village of the Knowledge Age loves a good idea. Ask Mark Zuckerburg who founded Facebook on nothing more than an idea. Ask Larry Page and Sergei Brin of Google. Ask the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, who developed the Windows operating system out of just a new idea in his mind. Ask Steve Jobs of Apple, today a billionaire from his idea for Ipod, Ipad and Iphone.

How many of us come up with new ideas? I would think a lot of us. But where do we develop these ideas? We need to design the society to be a place of incubation for new ideas to grow into reality. That would transform our land.

The difference between the developed world of Canada, the US, Asia and Europe, and us in the under-developed countries struggling with daily living is simple: the under-developed world scorns new ideas, while the developed world fosters and cultivates people of educated imaginations, who love birthing new ideas.

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