Does anybody truly have novel ideas anymore? I suppose you really have to be thinking out of the box if you do. It’s true that even the best inventions are not truly original: there are a lot of people with the same or similar idea, but there’s one person who can really pull it off.
The incandescent light bulb, for example, an invention that most moderners attribute to Thomas Edison, was about 80 years in development by the time Edison filed for an “Improvement in Electric Lights” patent. Edison experimented a bit and improved the light bulb, using different materials to make the first practical, widely available light bulb. That’s the crux, right there. Improvment is not the same thing as a truly unique idea. And yet, we like to think it is just that.
Apple also has a knack for doing this. Sleek, sexy technology that is simply a better, more-practical and widely-available version of preexisting technology.
Now, to pose a question to my readers (probably only just a few people – looking at you, mom), have you ever jolted awake at night with an idea? Dare I say, you had a lightbulb going on over your head? Have you been waltzing the aisles of a grocery store when, Eureka!, you suddenly know what will change the world!? Now, unless I am simply the least creative person of all time, chances are, someone else already had that idea.
When walking down a cobblestone street in Strasbourg, France I had a Eureka moment after passing a cheese store: Fromage à trois. All of you are currently thinking, “that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever heard!” If not, I’ll fill you in.
The word for cheese in French is fromage and the phrase for threesome is ménage à trois – I think you see where this is going. Open a cheese store called Fromage à Trois. Hilarious, right? Still not funny? Okay, maybe not. But I thought I was the second coming of Jesus when I thought of it.
Alas, a quick google search later and my dreams were crushed. It’s already a pasta and cheese shop on Cape Cod. The website is awesome. The home page launches a cheesy (see what I did there?) french-sounding instrumental version of La donna è mobile from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.
Anyways, that rant went on a bit longer than expected. I bring up this topic today because it happened again. While trying to fall asleep last night, I concocted a recipe for a weird beer.
What was the idea? A Blueberry Pancake Hefeweizen. Delicious-sounding, right? As I was mentally drafting my recipe, I considered the basic elements of a blueberry pancake and came up with the following:
- wheat beer base (hefeweisen) to emulate flour
- Belgian candi sugar to slightly sweeten the beer
- several pounds of puréed blueberries
- maple syrup
Primary Fermentation would be the base hefe with belgian candi sugar and blueberries. Then secondary fermentation would start up again with some organic grade B maple syrup to add a subtle maple flavor. Gotta cook those pancakes before topping it with syrup!
But, yet again! The idea has already been done…kind of. Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., situated in Warren, Michigan, has a Wild Blueberry Pancake Ale that looks pretty darn delicious. I don’t know exactly their process, but I think their’s is based on barley malts. Can I say it one more time? Thanks. Alas…
After pondering this concept for the last hour, I’m convinced that while we use words like innovation, new, unique, novel, etc… and even define and gain ownership of our ideas with patents and copyrights, we are all just building on those that came before us. Without a foundation, there’s no moving up.
I may not have been the first person to think the thoughts that I thunk, but that’s alright. I’ll continue to partake in the dialogue of collective human consciousness and attempt to differentiate my ideas just enough to fit it into our very, very loose definition of a unique idea.