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Paul Graham谈如何找新点子

美国著名程序员、博客作者和技术作家保罗·格雷厄姆(Paul Graham)在其个人网站上的长文《How to do great work》给仍然雄心勃勃的年轻人提了一些建议,适合每位对自己仍有期望的朋友反复阅读。下面是本文的第十二部分摘录:


Having new ideas is a strange game, because it usually consists of seeing things that were right under your nose. Once you’ve seen a new idea, it tends to seem obvious. Why did no one think of this before?

When an idea seems simultaneously novel and obvious, it’s probably a good one.

Seeing something obvious sounds easy. And yet empirically having new ideas is hard. What’s the source of this apparent contradiction? It’s that seeing the new idea usually requires you to change the way you look at the world. We see the world through models that both help and constrain us. When you fix a broken model, new ideas become obvious. But noticing and fixing a broken model is hard. That’s how new ideas can be both obvious and yet hard to discover: they’re easy to see after you do something hard.

One way to discover broken models is to be stricter than other people. Broken models of the world leave a trail of clues where they bash against reality. Most people don’t want to see these clues. It would be an understatement to say that they’re attached to their current model; it’s what they think in; so they’ll tend to ignore the trail of clues left by its breakage, however conspicuous it may seem in retrospect.

To find new ideas you have to seize on signs of breakage instead of looking away. That’s what Einstein did. He was able to see the wild implications of Maxwell’s equations not so much because he was looking for new ideas as because he was stricter.

The other thing you need is a willingness to break rules. Paradoxical as it sounds, if you want to fix your model of the world, it helps to be the sort of person who’s comfortable breaking rules. From the point of view of the old model, which everyone including you initially shares, the new model usually breaks at least implicit rules.

Few understand the degree of rule-breaking required, because new ideas seem much more conservative once they succeed. They seem perfectly reasonable once you’re using the new model of the world they brought with them. But they didn’t at the time; it took the greater part of a century for the heliocentric model to be generally accepted, even among astronomers, because it felt so wrong.

Indeed, if you think about it, a good new idea has to seem bad to most people, or someone would have already explored it. So what you’re looking for is ideas that seem crazy, but the right kind of crazy. How do you recognize these? You can’t with certainty. Often ideas that seem bad are bad. But ideas that are the right kind of crazy tend to be exciting; they’re rich in implications; whereas ideas that are merely bad tend to be depressing.

There are two ways to be comfortable breaking rules: to enjoy breaking them, and to be indifferent to them. I call these two cases being aggressively and passively independent-minded.

The aggressively independent-minded are the naughty ones. Rules don’t merely fail to stop them; breaking rules gives them additional energy. For this sort of person, delight at the sheer audacity of a project sometimes supplies enough activation energy to get it started.

The other way to break rules is not to care about them, or perhaps even to know they exist. This is why novices and outsiders often make new discoveries; their ignorance of a field’s assumptions acts as a source of temporary passive independent-mindedness. Aspies also seem to have a kind of immunity to conventional beliefs. Several I know say that this helps them to have new ideas.

Strictness plus rule-breaking sounds like a strange combination. In popular culture they’re opposed. But popular culture has a broken model in this respect. It implicitly assumes that issues are trivial ones, and in trivial matters strictness and rule-breaking _are_opposed. But in questions that really matter, only rule-breakers can be truly strict.

有新想法是一件奇妙的事情,因为它通常包含发现就在你眼皮底下的东西。当你看到一个新想法时,它看起来既新颖又显而易见。为什么之前没有人想到这一点?

当一个想法同时新颖和显而易见时,它很可能是一个好主意。

发现显而易见的东西听起来很简单。但从经验来看,产生新想法确实很困难。这明显的矛盾从何而来?因为看清新想法通常需要改变你看问题的方式。我们通过既有帮助又有局限性的思维模式来看待这个世界。当你修正一个有缺陷的思维模式时,新想法就会呈现出来。但注意并修正有缺陷的思维模式本身就是一件困难的事情。这就是为什么新想法可以同时新颖和难以发现的原因:在你做出努力改变原有思维模式之后,它们就变得一目了然;但一旦你采用了这些新想法形成的新的世界观,它们就会变得非常合理。

发现有缺陷的思维模式的一种方式是比其他人更加严谨。有缺陷的思维模式在与现实对抗时会暴露出破绽。大多数人不愿意发现这些破绽。可以说他们非常依赖现有的思维模式;这正是他们的思考方式;因此他们倾向于忽略有缺陷思维模式与现实对抗时留下的显著迹象,无论事后看来多么明显。

为了找到新想法,你必须抓住思维模式的破绽,而不是视而不见。这正是爱因斯坦的做法。他能够发现麦克斯韦方程组的深刻内涵,不是因为他有意寻找新想法,而是因为他思考得更加严谨。

你还需要有改变旧规则的勇气。这听起来很矛盾,但如果你想修正对这个世界的有缺陷的思维模式,改变规则是必要的。从旧思维模式的视角来看,也就是所有人包括你在内最初的视角,新的思维模式通常会改变一些潜在的旧规则。

很少有人理解需要改变规则的程度,因为一旦新思维模式被接受,它们就会看起来更合理。一旦你采用了新的世界观,这些想法就会很容易被认同。但在一开始并不是这样,直到一个世纪之后,日心说模型才被天文学家广泛接受,因为它与人们原有的思维模式相违背。

事实上,仔细思考一下,一个好的新想法对多数人来说一定看起来疯狂,否则就会有人去探索它了。所以你要找到的思想看似疯狂,但需是合理的疯狂。你如何判断这种合理的疯狂呢?你不能完全确定。因为往往看似不好的想法确实就是不好的。但正确类型的疯狂想法倾向于令人振奋,它们意味深长;而单纯错误的想法倾向于令人沮丧。

适应改变旧规则有两种思维方式:享受改变规则,以及不以规则为然。我把这两种情况称为积极独立思考和被动独立思考。

积极独立思考的人喜欢创新。规则不仅不能阻止他们改变规则,改变规则还能给他们带来动力。对这种人来说,一个项目的大胆创新能提供足够的动力来启动它。

另一种改变规则的方式是不太在意规则,或者甚至不知道规则的存在。这就是为什么新手和局外人常常能有崭新的发现;他们对某个领域规则的无知让思维更加开放。阿斯伯格症患者似乎也对传统思维模式有一定的免疫力。我认识的一些这样的人说这有助于他们产生崭新想法。

严谨思考加上改变旧规则听起来是一种奇妙的组合。在通俗文化中,它们看似互相对立。但通俗文化在这一点上存在有缺陷的思维模式。它暗示问题都是些琐事,在琐事上,严谨和改变规则确实互相对立。但是在真正重要的问题上,只有敢于改变旧规则的人才能真正做到严谨思考。

#Paul Graham #How to do great work