Ideational Pathways: Toward a New Approach for Studying the Life of Ideas

Abstract

What is the life of an idea? How do some ideas result in creative outcomes? People interested in creativity often want to know the answers to these questions. Although there are numerous methods and measures for assessing creative persons and products, there is little by way of methods for documenting and analysing the trajectories of ideas. The purpose of this paper is to address this need by introducing a new approach for tracing and analysing ideational pathways. Ideational pathways refer to the trajectory of ideas in temporal and spatial dimensions. That is, how ideas travel through time and space and whether those ideas end up resulting in creative outcomes. We open the paper by providing a theoretical and conceptual background for ideational pathways. We then introduce an emerging approach for tracing these pathways and apply it to two examples. We close by discussing implications and directions for future research.

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