Idea Generation by Zach Jones

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Ideas are a tricky thing. We’ve all had them, yet very few of us have pursued them and created something new. We often associate unique ideas with creativity, thus we have to develop this creativity in order to develop our capacity for generating ideas. Fortunately, this isn’t as tough as we might think. Here are some techniques to increase your ability to come up with new ideas.

The first step in generating more and better ideas is to not censor. Teachers say “no question is a dumb question.” That could be argued, but in business, any idea can work. Don’t believe me? This guy raised $55,000 on Kickstarter to make a potato salad. A site that sends your enemies glitter was sold for $85,000. Alright, now that we’ve established that you could be successful even with the craziest ideas, let’s move along.

Write everything down. Keep a note where you record ideas, tweet them, write them in a journal, tell people. Live with your ideas. The more deliberate you are about this, the more you will find yourself coming up with new ideas and building on your past ideas.


Think, what are your problems? Identify the pain points in your day. Expand your thinking to broader issues in your life, your country and the world.

Here’s a simple exercise to get started:

  1. Write down as many problems in your community as you can in one minute
  2. Pick the problem that is most important to you
  3. Write down as many solutions you can in one minute (and remember, don’t censor! write down everything)
  4. Pick your favorite solution
  5. Write down as many ways as possible to implement this solution in one minute

Those last bunch that you wrote down, are the basis for startup ideas. In less than five minutes you’ve generated great ideas!

Feel empathy

Above, we brainstormed solutions to ideas from our perspective, but what are other people’s problems? Listen to people’s complaints. Search for opportunities in their problems. Businesses all have problems and inefficiencies. Ask people in industry what is the most annoying part of their job and you will probably get lots of material!

Connect the dots

Combine multiple disciplines. Look for ideas in other fields and mold them together. Here’s an entire collection of ideas that fall under the Airbnb for x category: (Jargon translation: Businesses that have applied the Airbnb model of staying with strangers to other disciplines, like offices, camping, restaurants and many more.) These ideas are mashups. The businesses may not advertise themselves as “the airbnb for office space” (maybe they do), but they are valid ideas nonetheless.

People new to the field of entrepreneurship always think that the hardest part is coming up with the idea. People that have been entrepreneurs, like Guy Kawasaki, say “Ideas are easy, implementation is hard.” In the next lesson, we will talk about sharing your ideas to help them grow. Stay tuned!



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