How to generate great ideas that everybody will envy you

How to generate great ideas that everybody will envy you

If you want to have a successful career in today’s creative society, you must have a constant flow of great ideas. You must become an idea person with an execution-oriented mindset.

  • When a new problem appears, you must have the skills to come up with unique solutions and bring them to life.
  • At every step, you have to see the potential for how things could be improved.
  • Even more, from time to time you should “live in the future” and then help build what’s missing.

And you know what, achieving all that is actually pretty easy. Having great ideas is a personality characteristic that can be developed. If you become the right sort of person, you will have the right sort of hunches; you will get the right type of brilliant ideas that everybody will love.

The secret to becoming the right sort of person is by looking at the world slightly differently and having a bulletproof idea generation system.

In this blog post, you will learn exactly how to achieve that. You will learn things like:

  • How to do an identity shift if you think you can't come up with greati ideas
  • The difference between organic and made-up ideas
  • What really makes ideas great
  • 20 creativity triggers
  • 30 techniques to use when you are brainstorming ideas
  • How to protect your ideas from idea murderers
  • Why changes are great opportunities to come up with great ideas
  • How to cherry-pick the best ideas
  • How to bring ideas to life as fast as possible

A personal idea generation system

After spending time with hundreds of people who most often have the problem of having too many great ideas (entrepreneurs, innovators etc.), I noticed three main differences in their thinking that stand out from the rest of population.

Firstly, they see themselves as individuals who have great ideas. They know that doubt is the number one idea killer. Thus, instead of doubting their creativity, they just pay attention to every single idea they get.

Secondly, they look at the world slightly differently. They see problems as opportunities, people’s needs as something that should be satisfied, future as their mission to co-build and a potential something that needs to be brought to life. They focus their mind on solutions.

But most importantly, people who have many brilliant ideas always have some kind of a framework in their mind that helps them come up with great ideas – a system for generating and prioritizing ideas.

The thing is, they might not even be aware of it, but they always have it. It’s a certain type of mindset and process that they follow, even if they don’t really know it (because it’s part of who they are, their unconscious self).

You can only have two problems in your life – a lack of brilliant ideas or too many brilliant ideas. Which will be yours?

If we take a step back, a system is nothing but a set of rules and processes that you follow to get a predictable outcome. The output we want in our case are, of course, brilliant ideas.

The best way to achieve such a creative output is to follow a carefully orchestrated idea generation process. In practical terms that means the following:

  1. Identity shift – seeing yourself as a creative person with unique ideas
  2. Idea generation – the secrets of actually coming up with good ideas
  3. Creativity triggers – tricks that can open your mind and help improve ideas even further
  4. Idea prioritization – a valuation system for deciding which of the generated ideas are the best and have the most potential
  5. Development of ideas – a set of steps for developing ideas into feasible and tangible solutions that everybody will love and understand.

As you can see, coming up with good ideas is a process, not a one-time event. The goal of the first three phases of the process (1-3) is to generate as many ideas as possible. They are called the input ideas. The goal is to have many crazy, stupid, bad, random and unrealistic input ideas.

And the goal of the last two phases (4-5) is to select the best ideas. They are called the output ideas. At the end of the process, there should be a few new, different, brilliant, out-of-the-box and feasible ideas.

The best news is that after following the idea generation process a few times, your mind assimilates it and you follow it intuitively. It becomes a natural way how you think, you become an idea person.

Excited? Now let’s dive deep into each of these phases.

How to generate great ideas

Identity shift – everybody can have outstanding ideas

You have 100 billion neurons in your brain. You are a product of billions of years of evolution. And then you think you aren’t a creative being? Don’t fool yourself.

Among your brain cells, creative juices are absolutely flowing. You are no exception. You just have to let it out on the surface. How? With the right system, of course.

But first, there is a big issue. If you don’t do an identity shift first, you will never ever come forth with your ideas – in business or personal life. You will sabotage yourself in every possible way instead. If you don’t see yourself as an idea person, you murder every single one of your (brilliant) ideas; even before you become aware of them.

If you don’t see yourself as an idea person, you still come up with great ideas – but you either instantly and intentionally forget them or you let them slowly die by doing nothing. What a brutal self-sabotage.

I’ve seen it hundreds of times in startup teams. There is always one person who is shy, doesn’t see themselves as creative, but you can see from a distance that there are ideas flowing in their brain. All you have to do is to encourage such a person to share their thoughts, and ideas start flowing. Be such encouragement to yourself.

But why don’t I see myself as an idea person?

There are many potential reasons why you don’t see yourself as an idea person.

Maybe your creativity was never encouraged, maybe somebody shamelessly laughed at one of your ideas when you were young, or maybe you are an unrealistic perfectionist who only sees “cancer cures” as ideas that are good enough.

Here are the most probable reasons why you don’t see yourself as an idea person:

  • You stifled your creative juice with doubt; but that only means a flow of ideas is boiling under the hood
  • You are afraid of being rejected; but being rejected usually drives you to be even more creative
  • Nobody asked you about your ideas; but it’s your duty to be proactive and come forth with ideas
  • You have an unrealistic view on great ideas; they aren’t really rocket science ideas
  • You never really put an effort into systematically generating ideas; build yourself a system

Whatever your reason is, stop it. Everybody can be creative. Everybody can have brilliant ideas. So, close your eyes, imagine life is only a dream, and see yourself as the most creative person alive. Don’t doubt yourself for a second.

When your mind tries to serve you all the lies why you might not be an idea person, use the thought-stopping tool. Just say to your mind: shut up, I am the most creative person alive. Period.

Only doing the identity shift is far from enough to have brilliant ideas; but it’s a necessary start if you want to come up with them at all.

Thus, consciously decide that you will kick yourself out of the comfort zone and leverage creative juice that flows between your brain cells to advance your career and live a more creative fulfilling life.

Idea generation

Idea generation phase – the secrets that will help you generate thousands of brilliant ideas

There are two general ways to come up with great ideas – you either notice an idea or you deliberately come up with it.

To notice great ideas (the so-called organic ideas), you have to start paying attention to what is happening in your environment. You have to pay attention to problems, needs and challenges.

To deliberately come up with good ideas (the so-called made-up ideas), you need the self-discipline to sit down and brainstorm. You need to know a few good creative tricks that will ignite your creative mind; and you have to do it often enough to make sure your creative juice stays fresh.

Combine both ways and you will become a living idea generation machine.

Organic ideas – Start noticing ideas based on observing what is happening around you

The most often way how ideas are born is the organic way. You notice, not think of, an idea. You notice that something is missing. But next second after you notice an idea, there is a big risk of forgetting it.

The solution for that is very simple. Always have a place to write down your ideas when you notice that something is missing in this world. A physical notepad. An app. Your hand. Wherever.

Just don’t be lazy, and write down every single idea that comes up to your mind during the day. The most brilliant ideas are usually noticed, not deliberately brainstormed! You observe something, see something missing and spontaneously get an idea.

Basically that means you have to do almost nothing to come up with brilliant ideas. You just have to be a little bit more observant of your environment, mindful of your thoughts, and disciplined enough to write down ideas that you get during the day.

Start with the goal of noticing five ideas during the day. Every single day for a month, write down at least five ideas that spontaneously come to your mind.

Pay attention to your thoughts and ideas that randomly come up, from the moment you sit on the toilet, take a shower and prepare yourself a breakfast, during the time when you work hard at your job, to the point when you come home to relax and read before sleep.

Start writing them down. That’s how you’ll rewire your brain to always pay attention to great ideas.

Besides observing everyday situations, be especially attentive to what goes through your mind during the times when the diffused mode of thinking is active. These are situations like:

  • Under the shower
  • Taking a walk, going for a jog or any kind of physical exercise
  • Driving, cooking
  • Finding yourself in new environments
  • Playing (with kids, games etc.)
  • Thinking about two different topics at the same time

What extensively helps in coming up with great organic ideas is having some kind of domain expertise or even several of them. An idea must be a match for your skills. Knowledge is what really powers brilliant organic ideas.

Consequently, to have good ideas read a lot, develop new competences, become an expert in a certain industry, constantly be curious and study how different things work. Develop T-shaped skills and organic ideas will start to flow in abundance.

Think outside the box

Made-up ideas: Search for triggers that push you into the brainstorming phase

The second way to get to good ideas is to sit down and think of ideas. This way is much harder. You need a lot of discipline. You have to sit down and brainstorm a lot. You need to brainstorm hundreds of shitty ideas to get a few good ones.

That means one of the best exercises you can do to become an idea person is to brainstorm ideas every day. Timebox 30 minutes on a daily basis for brainstorming, take a piece of paper and a pen, and brainstorm at least 100 ideas.

Every single day. After a month, you will become an endless fountain of creative ideas. You will rewire yourself to squeeze out every single drop of the creative juice you possess. Do it as a 30-day challenge and your life will never be the same.

If brainstorming every day takes too much discipline…

Few people who are motivated and disciplined enough to brainstorm ideas every day. That means we need a better solution and it lies in the 3R formula of how habits are formed.

Every habit starts with a reminder (a cue), which triggers a certain type of behavior. In other words, after the triggers fires you do a specific routine – the habit itself. And in the end, you enjoy the reward, the benefit you gain from performing the habit. Reminder, routine, reward.

We already know the routine that you want to perform. You want to sit down and brainstorm ideas. The rewards are also pretty obvious. You want to advance in your career, become more productive, be appreciated for your brilliance, help the company to grow, or make more money.

Triggers are the ones that can really help you become more disciplined with brainstorming. What you need is a list of triggers that automatically push you into the brainstorming mode.  Let me give you a few examples that I use in my own life:

  • Whenever I encounter a problem, I sit down and brainstorm ideas
  • Whenever I am alone and bored, I take a piece of paper and start brainstorming ideas
  • Whenever someone beats me in a competition, I start brainstorming ideas for how I can improve
  • Whenever I get rejected, I transform sorrows into brilliant ideas on how to become even more awesome
  • Whenever I hear someone complaining about something, I brainstorm potential solutions
  • When I travel to a new country, I always write down at least 10 new ideas
  • After I finish a book, I always brainstorm ideas on how to build new content on the shoulders of giants
  • After watching an inspiring movie, I sit down and brainstorm a few ideas

Think of 3 – 5 situations that could be your potential natural brainstorming triggers. It must be something that happens in your life at just the right frequency (a few times per week at the most), gets your creative juice flowing (usually strong emotional states), and directs your brainstorming to practical solutions.

That’s the secret to having awesome made-up ideas.

When you deliberately brainstorm to make up ideas, there is one more big psychological challenge you have to overcome. What happens is that when you brainstorm ideas, most of the ideas are crap and that is hard to accept.

But among those hundreds of crappy ideas are real gems that can change your life forever. That means there is a price to pay for digging yourself through the best possible ideas. The price is dirt thrown at your ego. You can see the dirt as a gatekeeper, because only the most persistent and bold individuals deserve to have the best ideas.

You must deserve everything worthwhile in life; even brilliant ideas.

What really are great ideas?

To end this chapter properly, if you ever wondered what great ideas really are, know that they are nothing but:

  1. Solutions to problems; so whenever you encounter a problem, start thinking about ideas.
  2. Fulfillments of needs; so pay attention to what people want and desire.
  3. Creations that arouse certain feelings; so think about how you want to make people feel.

That means the best way to come up with good ideas is to be curious (ask questions), observe, and pay attention to people’s problems, needs and feelings. Listen and look around, and ideas will start flowing.

Brainstorming session

Creativity triggers – secrets that will help you make your ideas twice as good

Much like you can have triggers to lead you directly into the brainstorming mode, in the same way you can help yourself with triggers that spark your creativity even further by keeping your mind open.

And at the same time, you have to avoid different kinds of idea killers, since they have the opposite effect from what you want. That’s how ideas are improved.

The most common creativity triggers are:

  1. Reverse assumptions – How would the opposite look? What if I did the opposite?
  2. Playing with attributes – What different materials can be used, can I make it smaller, cheaper, etc.
  3. The skyscraper technique – How would a 100-times better solution look like?
  4. Traveling into the future – How will the world look like in 10, 50 or 100 years and how will the problem be solved?
  5. Convergences – How can I merge two or more things into one?
  6. Knowledge transfer – How could a solution from one industry be used in another industry? That means you should read books completely outside from your domain from time to time.
  7. Curiosity – Ask thousands of questions why things are as they are.
  8. Modeling – What would [your role model] do? How would [Einstein] think?
  9. Competition research and clever copying – You know, to make existing ideas even better ideas.
  10. Debating and listening to other people – What problems and needs do people really have?
  11. Rejections and conflicts – Rejections can always spark creativity if you know how to direct negative feelings into new ideas for improvements.
  12. Validated learning – Fail, make mistakes and learn from them. Ideas will start flowing.
  13. Changing surroundings – When you change the environment you trigger new thoughts.
  14. Using different creative techniques – Brainstorming, reverse brainstorming, brainwriting, six thinking hats, random words, story board, mind maps, SCAMPER etc. More about that later.
  15. All kinds of art – Music, movies, paintings, digital art, inspirational sites, …
  16. Humor, having fun and making love

As a bonus, one of the best creativity triggers is to spend time with creative people, preferably the ones who are active in other industries than you. If you socialize outside of your normal social circle, new debates and thoughts will take place and that will give you many new creative ideas.

Morphological box

Morphological box, Source: Becreate

A list of creative techniques that will help you come up with brilliant ideas

One of the best ways to open your mind and improve your ideas is to use different proven creative techniques (obviously they combine different creativity triggers).

The following are the most popular creative techniques that will absolutely help you come up with brilliant ideas or improve them:

  1. Brainstorming: Generate creative ideas through intensive and freewheeling group discussions. You can also do it solo by taking a piece of paper and a pen, and writing down ideas that come to mind.
  2. Reverse brainstorming: Getting ideas by going in the opposite direction. Rather than thinking about how to solve a problem, think of how to cause the same problem. And then how to take preventive measures.
  3. 6-3-5 Brainwriting: 6 participants write down 3 ideas in 5 minutes on a paper and then swap their papers clockwise for up to six rounds. Seeing others’ ideas should encourage new idea creation.
  4. Challenge assumptions: Write down all your assumptions and ask yourself: What if [assumption] was not true?
  5. Mind Mapping: Use the mind mapping process to brainstorm or develop your ideas.
  6. Crowd-Storming: Collect ideas, comments and suggestions from people on the internet (or your friends or experts or whoever).
  7. Vision Boards: Build a collection of visual materials around your ideas.
  8. Story Board: Build a collection of visual materials that tell a story of how the idea can be applied.
  9. Role Playing: Take up the role of an ideal persona (user) for your idea and play out how the idea would help the persona in everyday life. You can involve other people in the roleplay.
  10. 5W1H method: Use questions Why, What, Who, When, Where and How to develop ideas.
  11. 5-Whys: Ask yourself “why” 5 times to identify the underlying causes of the problem and try to solve it on a different level.
  12. SCAMPER: Do the following to your ideas – Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate, Rearrange.
  13. Osborn checklist: How can you adapt, modify, substitute, magnify/maximize, minimize/eliminate, rearrange, reverse, combine or apply one of your ideas to another use?
  14. Harvey cards: Animate, contradict, symbolize, superimpose, transfer, add, substitute, distort, transform, sympathize, analogize, subtract, isolate, disguise, change size, repeat, mythologize, fantasize, combine or make a parody of your idea.
  15. The six thinking hats: Look at the problem from six different aspects – facts, subjective opinion, doubts, positive qualities, alternative ideas and process.
  16. Attribute listing: List as many attributes as possible and play with modifying them.
  17. Morphological box: Build a matrix of possible parameters (attributes) and all the possible configurations for every parameter. Then visualize and analyze all the possible combinations.
  18. Bad2Good: In every bad idea, there is something good. Find it.
  19. Participatory ideas: Invite users to participate in the process of idea generation or improvement.
  20. Forced relationships: Take an unrelated object and force your thinking into finding a relation between that object and your idea.
  21. Free associations: Fire a flow of free associations that will lead you to new ideas. Just make sure you don’t do any censorship, but rather really write down every one of your associations.
  22. Visualizing and daydreaming: Visualize improvements of your ideas, new functionalities, different applications, and so on. Just spin different images in your head.
  23. Idea borrowing: Borrow an idea and make it into something new.
  24. Biomimicry: Think about how nature would solve the problem or look for inspiration in nature’s best evolutionary ideas.
  25. Excursion technique: In your mind, go to an imaginary excursion (forest, museum, train …) and write down 8 – 10 images you saw on the journey. Draw analogies with the problem or idea.
  26. More inspiration: Gather innovations, products and technologies from all possible industries, sectors and domains, and try to apply them to your idea.
  27. Random Input: Select a random noun in a dictionary, open a book on a random page, open a random Wikipedia article. That should spark a new flow of ideas in your mind.
  28. Redefinition: Think of a broader or narrower problem from the original problem you are trying to solve. Look for solutions on those different levels.
  29. Wishing: Imagine life is just a dream. Then start a sentence with I wish or Wouldn’t it be nice if … and of course think of your idea.
  30. Walt Disney Technique: Play with your idea first as a Dreamer with no limitations, then as a Realist minding limitations, and at the end as a hard Critic thinking about how the idea can be improved.

Test a few of these techniques. Find the ones that work best for you. Enjoy a constant flow of awesome ideas. And if this still doesn’t work, organize an idea workshop where you invite all your friends and use a few of these techniques together. I have no doubt you will have lots of fun.

Idea murderers

Protect your ideas from idea murderers

At this point, you know all the awesome tools and secrets for brainstorming great ideas. Now you have to make sure they aren’t murdered.

There are many idea murderers and your job is to protect your ideas from these evildoers. Protecting ideas from murders most often means protecting them from yourself.

These awful idea murderers are disguised as:

  1. Doubt – People won’t like it, it already exists, it’s not a unique idea, …
  2. Criticism – It’s nothing really new, anybody can come up with such an idea, it’s not perfect, …
  3. Fear – I could be mistaken, the idea might fail, we need more research, it’s not my responsibility …
  4. Status quo – It’s too big of a change, let’s keep it under consideration, the current solution works, …
  5. Predicting feasibility – The idea is not feasible, it probably won’t work, it’s not logical, …
  6. Predicting limitations – I don’t have time, it’s too expensive, the market is not ready yet, …

If you want to have really great ideas, make sure you are properly managing all the idea murderers. Here are some weapons you can use:

  • To deal with doubt, make sure that the desire to grow and individuate is stronger than the need to belong and be average.
  • To stop criticism, use the thought-stopping method we mentioned (shut up your inner critic) and be satisfied with good enough.
  • Turn mistakes and failure into validated learning.
  • Always challenge the status quo and forget about the best practices.
  • Always put your assumptions to the test. Data is more accurate than any rhetoric or your beliefs.

Tech changes

Great ideas and opportunities come along with shifting paradigms

There is one more secret to having brilliant ideas. Great ideas always address or suggest some kind of a change. Changes are thus the biggest creative and business opportunities.

If you want to have brilliant ideas, look for the changes that are currently happening in your life or the ones you can trigger.

There is a constant flux of structural changes in all of our lives, including:

  • Technological changes
  • Social change
  • Demographic change
  • Environmental change
  • Structural changes
  • Political change
  • Regulatory change
  • Market inefficiencies
  • Industry changes

These changes hide the biggest opportunities. And when you are exposed to opportunities, ideas start to follow. There is a very simple trick you can do. To be exposed to more changes (with the goal of getting more brilliant ideas), expose yourself to a fast-changing environment.

Operating in the right industry is the first step to achieving that. You can absolutely be creative in every industry, but in some industries it’s much harder to come up with brilliant ideas; although the ideas can be much more valuable.

Established industries with a long tradition, existing markets, sustainable innovation and not many changes can be refreshed, but it’s pretty damn hard to do it. Richard Branson has the formula how to do it.

On the other hand, we have young industries with high growth, disruptive innovations, and many unknowns – the so-called blue ocean industries. These are usually the industries that destroy or reshape traditional industries. In such industries, there are many opportunities for testing and trying new ideas.

In short, many times the best thing to come up with great ideas is to be at the leading edge of some rapidly changing field. It’s never only about you. Your environment also matters, even when it comes to ideas.

Select the best ideas

Idea prioritization – among the many, among the dirt, diamonds are hidden

The point of everything we talked about until now is to come up with as many ideas as possible on a regular basis. All the tools, tips and tricks we discussed give you the power to come up with hundreds if not thousands of ideas every week.

But we also said that most of these ideas will be crappy. So what? Among the many, brilliant ideas are hidden.

That leads us to the next stage. An important part of the idea generation process is to identify these gems. In other words, you must have a really good idea prioritization system. What you need is a set of criteria to cherry-pick the best ideas in your arsenal.

The most common criteria for idea prioritization are the following:

  1. Risks and potentials
  2. Passion
  3. Skills
  4. Market feedback
  5. Technological feasibility
  6. Economic feasibility
  7. Timing

Risks and potentials

The two simple questions to begin idea assessment is what could go right and what could go wrong? People usually ask themselves only one of these two questions. Ask yourself both of them. What you’re looking for are ideas with small risk and big potential reward.

What could go wrong? What could go right?
Small risk Big potential reward

Passion

As we will talk about in the next chapter, only having brilliant ideas is never enough. You need to push your best ideas, you need to be committed to idea realization and thorough execution.

Positive feedback is absolutely important, but you are the one who has to be passionate about the idea. Thus, ask yourself – are you really honestly passionate about your idea? Provide only a deeply honest answer, otherwise things will backfire in the execution stage later.

Skills

Your ideas must match your skills. Actually, the idea execution must be just a little bit tougher than your competences. That way, idea execution becomes a challenge.

If realizing an idea is not challenging for you, boredom will take place. But if they are too challenging, you might get scared away. So, look for ideas for which execution is just above your skills in the learning zone.

Market feedback

Every idea has its target market, which can include customers, boss, employees, family members etc. The target market are people who will use the idea. And here comes the most important part of the idea selection criteria.

Never assume what customers will like. Never ever. Always test your ideas with the target market; and you have to do it the right way. Simply asking them whether they like your idea is the wrong way.

You have to show people how their lives will be changed, how things will be more efficient and how problems will be solved. You need to use lean startup practices to test your ideas.

Don’t ask people what they think of your ideas, show them how their lives will be changed.

If you are validating a business idea, you can already do some calculations of the market size (TAM, SAM, SOM), define potential customer segments, analyze competitive solutions, and so on.

You can do basic market research to get a real insight into how good your idea is. It takes a few hours of research to get a really great insight into how original your idea really is.

The steps to do get initial feedback from the market about your idea:

  • Do customer interviews
  • Build minimum viable products (more about that in the next chapter)
  • Analyze all the competitive solutions and ideas
  • Ask yourself – who would kill (or, better yet, pay) for such an idea right now

Ideas can be completely new or they can be improved existing solutions. They can be targeted at a completely new market (people who never used anything like that in the past) or they can address the existing market (people who use similar solutions). Either way, ideas must be technologically and economically feasible.

Economic feasibility

It’s not rocket science to figure basic economic feasibility. You don’t need a detailed financial plan. For economic feasibility, take a napkin and a pen and write down all the costs that come with idea realization.

Everything you can think off, down to the paper clips. Then multiply the costs with Pi (3.14). That is probably more realistic. Next, think of how long it will take to execute the idea – how many days, weeks or months? Then again multiply it with Pi.

Now you know the costs. The next thing you need are revenues or savings or any other benefits that an idea can bring. If the idea is something that can be sold, check competitive products and roughly determine the price. Now calculate how many items must be sold to cover the costs.

If the idea is about savings or any other benefits, try to put some kind of value to it. It’s very basic math, but it will give you a good overall feeling of economic feasibility. Does the basic math work out?

In the initial stages, it’s much more important to talk to potential customers than to do any kind of detailed financial plans, especially if your ideas are something completely new.

Nevertheless, it’s good to know the risks (costs) involved and all the potential benefits that come with idea execution. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do such basic calculations.

Technological feasibility

To determine technological feasibility, you should have enough domain expertise or find someone who does and can tell if the idea is feasible.

Today technology is developed to the point where usually a much more important question is whether anybody will use the idea, rather if it can be made (if you aren’t developing a new cure for some lethal virus).

Do some basic research, talk to the experts, build a prototype yourself, and you will soon have the answer if an idea is feasible or not.

Timing is everything

Another important aspect when it comes to new ideas is timing. Timing is everything. If the timing is wrong, that doesn’t mean you should instantly kill an idea. Because timing is rarely perfect. You have to reshape the environment in a way that the timing becomes perfect.

Thus, the right question is not whether the timing is perfect, but how to make the perfect timing. There are several ways how you can play with the timing:

  • Speeding or slowing down execution
  • Putting ideas in a different context
  • Finding ways to reduce friction
  • Mobilizing additional resources
  • Reshaping ideas

Take your ideas and put them in time and space; but not only here and now. Play with different spaces and different time dimensions. Think about how you can create a better timing for your ideas. Prioritize those ideas, which will have the perfect timing sooner in the future.

In summary, here is a checklist for validating your ideas:

Is there a manageable risk? Yes
Are there potential big rewards? Rate from 1 – 10
Am I passionate about the idea? Yes
Does the idea match my skills (is it a healthy challenge)? Yes
Can I easily get feedback from the market? Rate from 1 – 10
Can I build an MVP fast? Yes
Does the basic math work? Yes
Is the technology available yet? Yes
How good is the timing? Rate from 1 – 10
Can I start working on the idea tomorrow? Yes

Use this just as a general framework for cherry-picking your ideas. Adjust it to the time and information you have at your disposal.

Sometimes you won’t have all the data. Sometimes you will only have minutes to assess your ideas. The point of this phase is to select the best ideas you have and then come forward with them. There is still a long process before the ideas come to life and there are usually still many checkpoints.

There are a few other frameworks you can use to assess and select the best ideas. Examples are the COCD‑Box, force-field analysis, hundred-euro test, negative selection and others. If you need a more sophisticated framework, I suggest you do further research on the mentioned options.

Rapid Prototyping

Bringing ideas to life – it all starts with a brilliant idea, but execution matters even more

The final stage of idea development is execution. There is a big difference between “I have an idea” stage and “I will build an initial version tonight” to test it or to show it to the boss or a potential client.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Building prototypes quickly based on your idea and testing them on the market is what leads to success.

That’s where developing ideas into (business) opportunities and execution come into play. Absolutely the best framework for idea realization is the lean startup. The basic idea of the lean startup is to put the user in the center from the beginning.

Stay flexible about your initial idea and instead develop the final version together with users. At the end of the day, the idea is meant for them.

The lean startup framework is useful for testing all kinds of ideas, not only business ideas. In a short summary, the steps in the lean startup for realizing the ideas are the following:

  1. Build a vision around your idea, so you become passionate about it and infect others with your passion. Your vision must be fueled by a strong why.
  2. Create a business canvas or lean canvas to clarify your assumptions around the idea and its realization, so you can systematically test them on the market.
  3. Do customer interviews to get the first feedback on how painful actually is the problem you are trying to solve for the target market with your idea. During the interviews, find earlyevangelists (supporters) who will help you develop the final version.
  4. Build minimum viable products or prototypes and commit to validated learning from day one to further develop your ideas and add/remove functionalities.
  5. Define a set of metrics that will tell you if you’re developing your idea in the right direction. Use the metrics to pivot (change implementation strategy) when you encounter big roadblocks.

You can read more about these steps in the ultimate lean startup guide. Knowing this framework will take you from being an idea person to being a producer of awesome things with brilliant career potential.

The concluding thoughts on how to get great ideas

If you read the whole article, all the way to this point, congratulations. You really are committed to having brilliant ideas and bringing them to life.

To make sure all the valuable insights really stay with you, here is the summary of the most important facts you always have to remember:

  • You have 100 billion neurons in your brain and you are a product of billions of years of evolution. You can be creative and have brilliant ideas, you are no exception.
  • The best way to come up with great ideas is to notice them. Thus all you have to do is be a little bit more observant of your environment, mindful of your thoughts, and disciplined enough to write down ideas that you get during the day.
  • Use the advantage of habit triggers to brainstorm regularly. Find 3 – 5 triggers that push you directly into the brainstorming mode. There are more than 30 creative methods you can employ to make up brilliant ideas.
  • Doubt, criticism, fear, status quo, predicting feasibility and assuming limitations are the biggest idea murderers. Protect your ideas from the idea murderers (usually that means from yourself). Commit to putting as many ideas as possible to the test.
  • If you wish to come up with many great ideas, be curious (ask questions), observe and pay attention to people’s problems, needs and feelings. Listen and look around, and ideas will start flowing. Surrounding yourself with the right people and being in the right industry also helps a lot.
  • Have a system by which you create and prioritize your ideas. The most common prioritization factors are risks, rewards, passion, skills, market feedback, feasibility and timing.
  • Everything starts with a brilliant idea, but good execution is even more important. Use the lean startup framework to execute your ideas.

When something annoys you, it’s because you’re living in the future. The more annoyed you are, the more great ideas you should have. Now fix things that bother you with new unique ideas and bring solutions to the present.

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