New Ideas Have Never Hurt Anybody

Faced with complex, open-ended and ever-changing challenges, humanity realised long ago that continuous innovation is critical in this dynamic world. This is why we need to be on the lookout for new ideas that can drive innovation. The ability to think differently, generate new ideas, and spark creativity within a group is an essential human attribute.

Often, we make the mistake of assuming that good ideas spring out of the blue. We think that once they are discovered, they will be appealing to everyone and not disturb previous belief systems. We can also get caught in the trap that creativity is aptitude: some people have it, others do not. It is a self-defeating belief that some of us are not destined to come up with good ideas.

These assumptions are untrue. Everyone can come up with fresh, radical ideas. We just need to be patient, determined and open to new concepts. We can acquire this skill by consciously practising techniques that can help our mind forge new connections, break old thought patterns and consider new perspectives.

But for creativity to flourish there needs to be an effort on a scale larger than the personal level. An enabling environment needs to be created. Society ought to be able to reward creativity by not eschewing unorthodox opinions out of hand.

Ideas are generated on an individual level. Some rush to share them with colleagues, friends or on social media. Others mull them a bit longer before going forward. But for there to be any meaningful action based on those ideas or constructive criticism that enhances them, they must be shared in the public domain.

While some ideas fail to compete, as a result of their lack of practicality or retrogression, many are rejected without any thoughtful deliberation. Indeed, there is too much information these days for people to consider each and every idea, but it is unfortunate that the ideas that do not get the benefit of the doubt are those that are unique.

Too many people are uncomfortable when faced with new concepts. It is said that people fear the unusual. Whenever a new idea is raised, and the majority feels uncomfortable to entertain it, it is not just that perspective that is disparaged but the person that produced it too. It suddenly becomes a slight against the collective understanding and is attached to the lingo-cultural, ideological or political leaning of that person.

There have been a number of reasons for this, but currently, it is politics. It has infiltrated our thoughts too deep for us to be able to characterise events without attaching a political meaning to them. It has made discourses toxic that should have been illuminating and constructive. It has become inexcusable to generate new ideas, which by their nature are a criticism of something old, without being scorned or bombarded with insults.

The rejection of new ideas is common in Ethiopia’s politics. For the past century, one system of government has been violently overthrown by another and replaced by something radically new. The new system then becomes a way of life, and it becomes taboo to suggest it should be improved or changed.

Although Ethiopia’s constitution allows multipartyism, the reality on the ground tells another tale. Despite recent improvements, the political space has been severely lopsided to the benefit of the incumbents. More than anything else, this has denied the country a political playing field where diverse ideas can be entertained. We could have addressed hot-button issues more effectively and sooner.

The cost of raising an idea in a public space should not be exclusion or getting insulted or attacked. Refusing a well-accepted idea and raising a new one is like refusing the whole community.

New and different ideas add value not just to the economic well-being of a nation but also to its sociopolitical standing. But a country whose citizens have long been told what is good for them, as opposed to encouraged to think what actually is, can barely be reprimanded for having a low tolerance for new ideas.

Entertaining new and different concepts is a very crucial practice for a diverse nation such as Ethiopia. Given a complicated history, and poorly recorded at that, and various languages and traditions, political interests can radically overlap as well as diverge. The nation thus requires all the ideas it can get. Avoiding them could mean a never-ending cycle of confusion. Thus, our political system should be organised in a way that can be as inclusive as possible.

Raising new ideas should not be considered an uncomfortable practice. Society prefers common ideas and discourages new ones. Entertaining rather than discouraging new ideas should be part and parcel of our day to day life. We need to be able to debate an idea alongside another idea in a diplomatic way to promote ideological diversity.

By Belay Abera
Belay Abera is a public health professional and researcher. He can be reached at

Published on Aug 18,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 955]



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