Ideas About Ideas

Do you have lots of ideas rattling around in your head? Do you mostly dismiss them? Or do you pick one and dwell  on it for a while? This is a subject we will come back to again in future posts. But today, I just want to provide a few resources that you can use to play with ideas a bit. Try it for a week or a month. First, here is what I do with ideas. I am not very systematic about it but I do consciously capture most of my ideas.

I Keep an IdeaLog

This is just a list of ideas in a central place. I used to use  a desktop wiki but recently shifted to Evernote. Evernote allows me to type my ideas on my mobile device and sync it with the one on my laptop.  I just make a list. Each idea is about 5-7 words.

I Select A Few Ideas and Do a 3W exercise

Once in  a while, I go back to my idealog, and review them. Most of them look crazy but I do not delete them. I take a few and do my What,Why, Who exercise. This consists of writing down:

  • What the idea is in a few sentences
  • Why this idea seems important to me and why it may be useful to others
  • Who can use and benefit from the implementation of this idea. Some times, it may just be me. Some times it may be a others like me. Some times, it may be some one completely unrelated. It does not matter. Forcing myself to think about the beneficiary is probably the best filter for selecting ideas for further processing.

If I get this far and still interested in the idea, I write down a list of what questions, why questions, who questions. This is  subset of the 6W framework from The Back of the Napkin |

I Try the List of 100 Approach

I pick just a couple of ideas from the pile and do a List of 100 exercise. Let me be frank. So far, I have done it only for 3 ideas, successfully. This really forces you to think about the idea a lot deeper.  I find this technique of writing down 100 thoughts about a specific idea as a very useful thinking exercise.

Sketch a prototype

Since most of my ideas are about software products, it is easy for me to take a few sheets of paper and sketch a user interface. I just use pen and paper. Some times I scan these sketches and attach it to my notes.  Once I do this, I put it in a list of projects to try. I try to find some interns or students to try projects and make them build a version of the prototype. I give this to people to look at. If people find it useful, we build an MVP.

A few ideas turn into products

A few ideas turn into usable products. I need to go to the next stage and get people to pay for it. This is where most ideas die. But a few have flourished.

Here are some resources you may find useful, if you want to play around with ideas.

The first step to have great ideas is to adopt an attitude of having lots of ideas. Going further, there are some strategies we can use to dramatically increase the amount of ideas we generate. The Idea Quota is one of the simplest and most effective of them.

If the best way to get quality ideas is by creating them from a vast pool of ideas, then our job is to have as many ideas as possible. Here are six tips that can help you develop an “idea abundance” mindset

In The Medici Effect, author Frans Johansson explores one simple yet profound insight about innovation: in the intersection of different fields, disciplines and cultures, there’s an abundance of extraordinary new ideas to be explored.

The List of 100 is a powerful technique you can use to generate ideas, clarify your thoughts, uncover hidden problems or get solutions to any specific questions you’re interested in.

I have not always done this. In the initial stages, I used to filter ideas in my head and simply build a prototype. But now, I think of market validation a lot more than I used to think before.