Ideas, ideas … ten a penny!

1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, right?

Implementation is everything. Right.

No argument. However, great ideas are still great ideas. I have ideas all the time. Maybe you do too – I hope so. But I can’t / won’t implement almost any of them. So, should they be stillborn, stay locked away in my head until they fade into obscurity? Somehow, this seems a waste – ideas are a uniquely human resource, after all. A little research reveals several sites which act as idea repositories, free for anyone to take and develop ([1],[2], [3],[4] – number 3 is my favourite). They are almost terrifying, the list of good ideas is so long.

A developer/team in search of a killer app could do themselves a favour and scan a thousand of these ideas before starting work on anything – but do they? I don’t think I’ve met a startup team who have been developing an idea that didn’t originate with one of them.

Why is this?

I think it’s ego and ego’s complement, fear.

Ego tells me that my ideas are great because – well, because they’re mine! Fear tells me that an idea that someone else has had is risky – maybe I haven’t properly understood it; maybe accepting someone else’s idea suggests that I don’t have good ideas myself; maybe everyone else has had this idea but me, and so it only seems interesting to me because I only just caught on – all these niggly little private semi-conscious thoughts that underpin Not Invented Here Syndrome (although see this counter-argument, and remember that circumstances alter cases).

But isn’t there something about startup ideas, in particular, that says they need to come from your own experience? One standard piece of advice is to identify something that seems a problem to you, personally, and see if you can solve that. The obvious advantage being that you presumably have a strong ‘feel’ for the shape and characteristics of the problem, and similarly understand what a good solution would feel like, what its benefits would be.

But is this only possible if you thought of it yourself? Surely the reason that we believe that solving a personal irritation will be valuable (socially, commercially, aesthetically) is that we understand ourselves to be similar enough to at least a significant sub-set of the population that they too suffer the same problems, and that a solution that works for us will work for them too.

An obvious parallel is observational comedy, of the ‘don’t you just hate it when the person in front of you does…‘ kind. And this is interesting, because it suggests that some people’s observation is keener than others, that some people’s ability to identify the essence of what they observe is sharper than others, and that some people’s ability to clearly communicate that essence is better than others. Because not everyone can do good observational comedy. Hardly anyone, in fact. Even when it’s observational comedy about how bad observational comedy can be… (and I usually really like Stewart Lee).

The corollary is that, once observed, understood, and pithily communicated, these situations are immediately recognisable to many, suggesting that to find an idea posted by someone else that fires you up, and fires up a few other people, too, might be a way of finding something that has some legs to it.

I have no notion, as yet, whether I will end up working on an idea that some-one else had, or deciding that one I rolled myself is the best bet, but I’m inaugurating a new page today with some ideas that I think are worth addressing. Hopefully there will eventually be more than one!

Perhaps there’s no more point doing this than there would be in throwing a message in a bottle into the ocean. Remember, though, that in a world of >7bn humans, statistically unlikely things happen all the time.

One thought on “Ideas, ideas … ten a penny!

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