While not strictly “where do ideas come from”, the idea of idea flow is intriguing. That is, where are ideas incepted, who do they need to get to next in order to survive, etc.^1
It’s probably worth splitting out idea flow and impetus flow? Or perhaps impetus is the ‘magnitude’ of an idea vector and it can get increased or decreased as the idea flows around.^2 Even ideas that we think of as ‘top down’ probably didn’t just strike a CEO like a bolt of lighting while in the shower. Someone probably mentioned at least the seed of it. (Which of course gets back to the real question of where do ideas come from) However, the most salient thing that pushes us to call it top down is that the impetus came from the CEO.
For example, in the §ARPA model in the dominant mode, the ideas come from the PMs who are not actually the bottom^3 nor are they at the top. Top down problems and bottom up solutions. Of course, sometimes the ideas do come from the top (we need a vertical take off and landing boat!) or from researchers.
^1: This language makes me think of virology. Perhaps instead of idea flow we could call it ideology or memeology? Mimetics is a think already isn’t it?
^2: This would suggest that we should think of a multidimensional idea vector field.
^3 An aside: it’s intriguing when you actually poke at what we mean by “bottom” and “top” in “bottom-up” and “top-down.” A first instinct is to say that it has to do with a power hierarchy, but that doesn’t quote work. It’s pretty uncontroversial that in the VC-Startup system ideas that come from startups are “bottom up” At first pass one might say in the VC-Startup relationship the VCs have all the power, but that’s not really true. Sometimes startups are asking VCs whether they would invest, but sometimes VCs are asking startups whether they could invest. However, the startups are the ones doing the implementation which I suspect is at the core of our perceptions of bottom-up and top-down. There is probably a mid-20th century economist who has done a much more thorough dissection of what we actually mean by top-down and bottom-up than me.