Saturday, July 28, 2012, by

10 Steps to be an Idea-Generating Beast

Have you ever seen a product that was so ridiculously simple it made you sick with jealousy that you didn’t think of it first?

All over the world, people are searching for that sacred golden idea making them rich, famous, sexy and preferably less hairy. The reality is: ideas are cheap, but execution is everything. If you would have explained Pinterest to me 12 months ago I would have laughed and said it’s been done 10 times over. Yet the execution of Pinterest took everyone by surprise.  

Even so, the art of idea-making itself remains incredibly powerful and very trendy. But what if your well of inspiration becomes a desert of desperation? Read on!

10 Steps to be an Idea-Generating Beast

  1. Start an “ideas” list
Make sure the ideas list is in a format you can easily access from anywhere (think Evernote or pen & paper - inspiration happens everywhere). Be intentional and spend 10 minutes a day adding to your list. Talk about your list with your coworkers and get their ideas too. Don’t try to poke holes in your ideas or think of the design flaws, but instead see #2:
  1. Encourage the crazy thoughts
    Don’t be critical of your ideas, just let them flow. Encourage the wilder ideas, follow the rabbit hole, traverse your mind across as wide an array of space as possible. Apply an existing idea in a different way, to a different industry. After all, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.
  2. Make one of your browser homepages
    Quite simply, the Mecca of the idea pilgrimage. If you thought your ideas were world-changing, check out your competition.
  3. Sign up for the daily email newsletter at
    These people are idea gurus. Learn their trade. I signed up for this on a whim and have been blown away by the innovation of average Americans with imaginations gone wild.
  1. Diversify your experiences
    You’ll soon realize that the majority of your ideas are inspired by real life events and frustrations. It only stands to reason that you can diversify your idea portfolio by diversifying the underlying inspiration.
  2. Turn your frustrations into improvements
    Train yourself to become acutely aware of anything remotely frustrating to you. If it’s frustrating, it can be improved - that’s a tipoff of a need that has yet to be exploited.
  3. Join a local entrepreneurs group on
    Another idea multiplier. I never expected to meet a 16 year old race car driver, a
    non-profit volunteer tracker, numerous authors and a mobile app catalyst all represented in the same room, but that’s exactly what I encountered at my first Venture Fridays meetup hosted by Red Nova Labs. Innovation is contagious. I drank the kool-aid, and the kool-aid was good.
  4. Watch this video
    … and do likewise.
  5. Hang out with like-minded idea churners
    You’ve probably heard the sayings: “Great minds think alike”. “Like likes like”. Even the Bible says “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another”. So get out there and find your inspiration... in human form. If you doubt this strategy, try spending all your time with stupid people and measure the difference. After all,
    None of us is as dumb as all of us.
  6. Compete in a startup day/hackathon/Disrupt event
    My own idea journey started with the
    HackTheMidwest hackathon in June. I was crushed that our team didn’t deliver on what I thought was a great idea, but it started something else in motion - an unstoppable thirst for innovation. I saw how easy it was to come up with a great product and deliver on it. I saw ordinary humans build crazy shnikees in 24 hours. My hackathon team had a growing list of 27 ideas with no sign of stopping soon, but most importantly I now believed that these ideas were actually “doable”.
  7. … and for the bonus round: Write a list about how to come up with more ideas This last one helped me immensely :) 'Nuff said!
photo credit: TokyoLunch via photo pin cc


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