Fortune

UNLOCKING YOUR BIG IDEAS

In this book excerpt, authors Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack explore how sleeping, walking, and drawing connections can spawn breakthroughs. It worked for Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs—and Keith Richards. Could it work for you?
Keith Richards dreamed up “Satisfaction” as he drifted off to sleep.

YOU CAN LEARN TO CULTIVATE GREAT IDEAS. That’s the bold promise of The Net and the Butterfly: The Art and Practice of Breakthrough Thinking, by Olivia Fox Cabane and Judah Pollack. Cabane is the author of The Charisma Myth, and both she and Pollack used to work at Stanford University’s startup accelerator; the two now consult variously for prominent companies and organizations ranging from Google, Airbnb, and IDEO to Deloitte and even the U.S. Army Special Forces. The Net and the Butterfly is filled not only with anecdotes describing the births of famous ideas, but also with a series of practical exercises aimed at improving your ability to generate them. The edited excerpts that follow examine the states of mind that are most conducive to creativity, along with a few examples of how to achieve those states. The final passage explores how idea “creation” often consists as much of idea modification and combination as of the original spark.

THE YEAR WAS 1965. The place was Clearwater, Fla. In his motel room—the Rolling Stones weren’t yet famous enough to afford hotels—Keith Richards woke up on a hot, humid morning to find his guitar and a tape recorder on the bed beside him. Groggy and hungover, Richards rewound the tape and pressed play.

The hour-long tape contained 59 minutes of his own snoring. But the first 30 seconds held the opening bars and first lyric of what became the Rolling Stones’ most iconic hit, the song “Satisfaction.” He didn’t remember even touching the tape recorder.

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