Revolutions are seldom solo efforts. Isaac Newton was the greatest scientist of his age and not one known for his false modesty, but even he had to admit, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Thomas Kuhn made a related point in his classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He argued that precedence in science is somewhat arbitrary—a matter of perspective rather than fact—because new discoveries are rarely tied to the work of just one person or team.
Yet, while very few ideas are truly original, there are exceptions. Sometimes an important new idea seems to have no precursor or precedent, but springs forth whole from a single mind and completely alters our perception of how the world works. Although these are rare, they have a lot to teach us about how to become more creative ourselves.