Why Should We Rethink?

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What is innovation? It’s not really about coming up with an entirely new idea – it doesn’t equate to an invention.

Innovation can be about reinventing existing concepts, improving what is currently at hand.

The idea doesn’t have to be new, it is just improved because of experience and advancement through the years.

Those who innovate improves existing ideas and making them work now.

The past ideas admittedly have its downside, mistakes and ideas that didn’t go all too well.

However, when you look at it – there are lessons to be learned from it. You “rethink’ what has been done.

When you rethink, you go over your existing notions, your judgment, your beliefs. You will sometimes understand that what was once an idea that wasn’t working before can finally work now.

Sometimes, the best options come from the improvement of old ideas. Steven Poole, author of the book Rethink reviewed old but new ideas and what lessons can be drawn from these.

Part 1

How do we rethink old ideas? Let’s talk about it in the area of medicine and science. In ancient Greece, leeches have been used already in medical practice.

Even in the 19th century, leeches were used in treatment. Leeches are effective in keeping the blood flow. Time passed, and using leeches became obsolete.

Fast forward to the 20th century, in Boston during 1985 – a dog tore a way a bit of a child’s ear. The doctor had to sew the torn bit back but a problem on the blood clotting arose.

With these situation, the doctor thought of the possibility of applying leeches to the ear to aid in this. And the next thing they knew, it was a successful procedure.

From that incident, leeches are now being used for reattaching procedures and also plastic surgery. That’s a great example how an old, even an ancient concept was used to a present situation.

Another way to look at rethinking is the next situation. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck wondered years ago why giraffes’ necks are quite long.

He had this belief that the giraffe’s neck got longer because of the need to reach the higher trees with leaves. And these characteristics were passed on to the giraffes’ descendants.

Lamarck’s theory was then debunked because of the other studies saying that genes remain the same, and it is passed on the same to its descendants.

However, fast forward to the 21st century, Isabelle Mansuy made a research that confirmed Lamarck’s theory.

Mansuy found out that the offspring of mice that had depression were more likely to be depressed even though the depression is a trait they acquired from their parents.

This is an example of an idea that has long been discovered but lost its relevancy but was rediscovered again to be true.

We go to the medical field again for the next example of rethinking. Ritalin was formulated as a medicine – an anti-depressant. However, it was found out that it can be used as a medication for ADHD as well.

From that point, it was then marketed as an ADHD medication. What we can learn here, it was an old idea that was used for a different application.

Our last example for part one is about cigarettes. About fifty years ago, Herbert A. Gilbert invented an e-cigarette, similar to what we have now. That time, no one thought that it was a great idea.

Fast forward again to current times, where health is increasingly becoming an issue, people have been turning to e-cigarettes.

It was the same idea, but then the attitude was different. It is an old idea but has become relevant because of the changing beliefs.

Part 2

While we get great ideas from rethinking sometimes excellent ideas are also from new concepts. An example is this is Newton’s law of gravity.

It was an idea he conceived just by using knowledge and existing resources during his time. In contrary, innovation doesn’t have to be something novel. There are some ideas that are just rediscovered.

Sometimes, ideas come from other existing ideas.  While you may say that a phone app that tracks the steps you have made in a day is a new idea, it’s an idea built on other step counting technologies. New ideas can really come up from old concepts.

Some ideas are being brought back because it was never proven in the past. Some may argue their plausibility but were not able to conclude it. Let’s talk about panphychism.

This is a concept built on the idea that everything has consciousness. Galen Strawson recently presented that this is a fundamental characteristic of matter.

Even though panphychism was not a welcomed idea before, it is now a theory that is respected. Panphychism is a theory that has been argued on for so long even without the conclusion.

And even with a conclusion, some ideas get brought up again. Recently, B.o.B the rapper has argued in Twitter that the earth is flat. There are just some ideas that are still being discussed despite the evidence against it.

Some ideas still happen to be this way as some people who are of great influence still propagate it or some believe in it because of the lack of basic research.

The scary thing about this, some of these notions are believed to be accepted truths by some. So be discerning and always ask questions.

We can learn from this. Be unafraid to ask questions and know about the matter better.

If you don’t search for the right answer you might miss the real answer – the truth. It’s okay to question long-standing “truths”. You might just be surprised that it’s not the truth after all.

Part 3

We must ask this important question, what old ideas should we bring in again that will make this world a better place?

One topic we can discuss about this is on the universal basic income. It was first heard in 1796 from Thomas Paine but that time no one really paid attention to it.

Well, it was brought up once in a while in several times periods but it never really became an acceptable concept.

However, further studies have found out that people won’t just do nothing all day if they have the money to sustain themselves. The result was, people with basic income will instead spend more time working on ideas to make the world a better place.

The thing is, a good idea can be different morally – there’s a possibility that it could be wrong morally. However, moral views change through time as well. What was wrong before can be acceptable now.


What have learned today? Even though there is evidence, it doesn’t mean you can’t question it. There’s nothing absolute.

We may have tons of information to assert an idea but there could be other proofs to support the other idea that disproves it.

We can rethink ideas no matter how old or recent it is. Challenge what we believe, we just don’t know what we will discover.



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