“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.”

Francis Bacon


“An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.”

Bill Bernbach


Many people argue time, or attention, is the new currency. I disagree. It is, has been, & will always be Ideas. A good idea, well said, makes time stop and people pay attention.

Now. Google ‘attention economy” and you get About 926,000,000 results (0.72 seconds). Google ‘idea economy’ and, well, yeah, you do get a bunch of articles mostly written around 2015ish (humorously the third piece that shows up is called “Idea economy isn’t about ideas”).

There is even a book called The Idea Economy but, oddly, it is skewed toward personal wealth and, uhm, hope <The Idea Economy: Why Your Ideas Will Have to Create Personal Wealth & Hope in an Age of Uncertainty Paperback – January 1, 1995. By Roger Hendrix>.

But. Clearly attention has become the topic du jour. I think its misguided <at least from a business perspective>. And, yes, this maybe be a chicken-egg thought but If business focuses on creating an idea which is interesting and meets a need, and even a want, it will gain attention traction. I am not suggesting ideas gain traction on their own because for the most part, they don’t. But what I am suggesting is that if you want sustainable attention you better focus on your idea first and foremost. And what I am suggesting is that while attention may be part of the means of sustaining your economic positives, it is the idea itself which ensures the ends you desire.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Carl Sagan


“Your mind is not a cage.

It’s a garden. And it requires cultivating.”

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Now. If it is an Idea Economy then thinking is the new form of currency.

In today’s complex business world, it seems like we are increasingly dependent upon thinking work, imagination, thinking conceptually, and the ability to grasp and apply complex abstract multi-dimensional intellectual challenges.

To be clear, thinking work is different from the typical jobs of even the last generation.

In an output/creation economy, industrial managers, salespeople, or even train operators could measure success tangibly: how much material used, things sold, or amount of material shipped.

In an idea/thinking economy, on the other hand, the measures of success are increasingly intangible <unless you deem profits & stock price as tangible>. In this type of less tangible value proposition all of a sudden ideas or thinking elevates overall value.

In an idea economy, producing products and services, consequently, is often less a function of the volume of resources that are put in. In generations past, more raw materials, capital equipment, or people clocking hours meant more products or services as output. Today, it’s often about efficiency or ‘minimizing to maximize’.  Minimize what to put in and then it comes down to how you creatively you craft the features. Conceptually, production is about economical/efficient input and selling is about thoughtful ideation.

That said. I would argue Thinking is the foundation of today’s economy. And, yet, there is an inherent frailty in the intangible of this foundation.


There is a mental frailty when it comes to coming up an ‘idea’ and there is a positioning in the mind frailty because the value resides more in ‘thought’ than in anything real. This should not diminish the idea of functionality or product driven, but rather suggest the success of a useful product teeters in the intersection of what people want AND what they need. In that space Ideas can be, well, pretty frail.

GE Ideas are Scary

Ideas aren’t really scary we just tend to be scared of how frail they are in their conception. This leads me to my next thought –  a frailty in the mind’s capabilities and a frailty in sheer storage space available with regard to the larger thought of “thinking is currency”.

It’s not that there is any decline in mental capabilities, but rather the mind becomes overwhelmed with too much thinking. By the way, this is not information overload, this is simply thinking too much. Too much thinking when the mind would be at its best by, well, non-thinking.

Too much thinking (some call it overthinking).

Too much thinking can kill inspiration <as all the reasons why it can’t be done arise>.

Too much thinking can kill a thought <as it gets overwhelmed by new thoughts>.

Too much thinking can kill an idea <as it gets overthought into mediocrity>.


“It is a fundamental paradox of human psychology that thinking can be bad for us.”

Ian Leslie


By following our own thoughts too closely we can lose our bearings as the inner dialogue crowds out the verbal whispers of good thinking.  The truth is that most of us are actually really pretty good at naturally culling down what is important when we think. Unfortunately, we also suck at stopping after we have culled.

Which leads me to nurturing thinking and thinkers.

I believe that the art of thinking needs to be nurtured and trained. This is not necessarily critical thinking, just thinking in general. This shouldn’t be that difficult because everyone has a natural thinker within us.  I believe everyone has some innate ability to treat pieces of information as jigsaw puzzle pieces waiting to be put together and create something. But within that innate ability there are some people who seem to slow down rapidly moving pieces mentally so they can see everything and then there are other people who only see blurs or pieces of the pieces.

But everyone, yes everyone, has some ability to sift through the jumbled pot of information and like a Williams Sonoma colander trap the essentials and quickly let the inessential run off.

Simplistically, thinking has always been about bringing stuff in and letting stuff out.

we are cups, constantly and quietly
being filled. the trick is knowing how
to tip ourselves over and let the
beautiful stuff out.

Ray Bradbury


That said. I would argue today’s complex world does demand a different type of thinker.

The Thinker

Historically we contemplated in retreat, silence, solitude, and within our own mind. We solved problems in isolation, deep thought, and through introverted reflection.

The contemporary Thinker

In an age of social media and more collaborative workplaces (or at least more interconnected workplaces) thinking is more a mosh pit of non-stop information, opinions and views.


Today’s thinking and problem solving has to live in a world where we are inter-connected and the exchange of information is fluid and even global. This interconnectedness brings both problems and emergent opportunities closer and faster.

So. Part of the challenge for the next generation of thinkers is how to let stuff out before they simply get overwhelmed with the amount that they bring in. We need to nurture a stronger ability to immerse in knowledge and then step out to think, to step into a fluid world of experiences, grab the most relevant out of the ether, and assemble them into Ideas of some usable version.

Thinking is complex (so trying to tell someone ‘how to think’ seems kind of silly).  But thinking encompasses being creative, thoughtful, and solutions oriented (for thinking without a conclusion isn’t really thinking) in a world where problems are extremely complex, targets and variables are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure.

All I really know is that today’s world runs on thinking and that thinking is not a particularly valued ‘product’ in today’s world. In fact, many downplay it as a disease <you are thinking too much”>.


“Thinking has become a disease.”

Eckhart Tolle


“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”



Well. Thinking is not a disease, in fact, it is the vaccine for most of the ills of the world.

Suffice it to say the mind is an amazing instrument when used correctly and very destructive when used incorrectly. Being smart isn’t good enough. While the mind thrives when dealing with problems <directed thinking> it also loves true indirect thinking <thinking driven by you, not a problem>.

This latter type of thinking is difficult and, frankly, most people don’t like doing it, but it creates the strongest thinking minds.


the day I cried about thinking


Minds need to be cultivated <you need to feed thinking> because thinking isn’t easy.

Anyway. I believe Time isn’t currency because the value lies within how you use the time. Thinking increases the value of time and economies.  Now. I would be remiss if I neglected to point out the outcome of thinking is an idea (or ideas).

In business:

–          Ideas are everything.

–          Ideas are separators and differentiators.

–          Ideas and information will be at the core of tomorrow’s company value.

Ideas are new remedies <against new evils>. Without ideas, as Francis Bacon says, Time will have an idea to share with you <without telling you what it is>.

Ideas are the new currency in any business. If you have a business focused solely on “making the customer happy”, you are on a fool’s errand. In today’s interconnected world expectations <and what makes a customer happy> are driven not by your competition nor any realistically relevant industry benchmark, but rather by whatever that customer has uncovered anywhere in the world to establish a benchmark. If you and your business try to ‘follow the customer expectation’ one-by-one, one will quickly become a ‘none’ <as in out of business>.  I wrote about this ‘Expectation Economy‘.

Regardless. Suffice it to say if you are not in the business of generating new ideas to refresh your business you are not competing in the same world as the rest of the businesses out there.

Suffice it to say if you are not constantly thinking you will not only not be generating ideas but you will also not be keeping up with everything going n in the world. And maybe that is my point about the Idea Economy. If you are not thinking, you are standing still. In other words, about to get run over by someone else’s ideas.


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Written by Bruce