Are "idea people" born that way or can it be learned?

I know people who literally need a journal to keep track of all their great ideas. For them, I think it's just an inherent trait. But for the rest of us, is it it a skill that can be learned? How? I'd really appreciate any tips you can share!! 😅

  1. 6

    I think some people are naturally better at it, but everyone can improve where they're at. Personally, I had ideas all the time as a kid. But then I lost it somehow. And now, I'm gradually coming up with more and more again.

    Here's a post I wrote on ideation a while back if you're interested.

    TL'DR: Create the routines you need to maintain a healthy mind and body, immerse yourself in your desired field, talk to people about their problems and brainstorm, create an environment conducive to ideation, and set aside time just for brainstorming (or even letting you mind wander freely).

    Meditation is key too IMO.

    Some prompts:

    • Think about the future. What is changing? Trends, technologies, platforms, niches — what's next? Then ask yourself how you can build for that.
    • Think about what bugs you in your work (and life). What would make things easier?
    • Think about your skills. What are you good at? What is your unfair advantage? How could that be applied to new fields?
    • Think about people who makes you envious. What are they doing? How can you do something similar?
    • Think about what you loved as a kid. Why did you love it? What did you want to be? What does that mean to you now?
    • Think about what would be exciting to work on for the next 10 years, even if it wasn't very successful.
    • Think about what industries are broken and ripe for disruption.
    • Think about how you can combine two ideas to make them better. Sometimes 1+1=3.
    • Think about businesses that you've seen in other countries. Is there a business doing something abroad that would be popular where you live?
    • If you've worked as a freelancer, think about how to make your service irrelevant.

    Good luck! 🚀

    1. 2

      Thank you!!! That's super helpful. I'll think on these prompts.

      Looks like I gotta start meditating 😇

  2. 5

    Many years ago I joined a very large ad agency. As an engineer it was a strange culture to join because it favored ideas and chaos over process. I would spend weeks in small rooms with copy writers, art directors, and creative directors spit balling hundreds of ideas.

    At first it was hard because I was the only person that would always think about feasibility. But over-time, I learned to embrace their ideation process and it was enlightening. Here are a few key things I picked up that have helped me –

    • Start by writing down 99 ideas and throw them all away. Idea people don't have one good idea. They have thousands of bad ones to get to the good one.
    • Share your ideas openly, innovation happens when your ideas collide with someone else's and your range of creativity expands
    • Related, the diversity of people in your network will bring diversity to your creative process and make your ideas more impactful
    • Rapidly test any idea you think may be good – there are many different ways to test
    • Become a fan of fiction and great stories. Some of the best innovations were inspired by the worlds best storytellers.
    1. 2

      Yeah I think that might be my problem too — always thinking about feasibility.

      This response is awesome, thank you! I think I've gotta get better at sharing my ideas openly, so that point was really helpful. And are you telling me that reading great fiction will help me come up with great business ideas?? Heck yeah! That I can do. 😂

      This agency of yours sounds interesting. How did anything get done when they were just spitballing all the time? And how did they bring the ideas back down to earth?

      1. 1

        Haha, yes! I feel reading fiction also serves as a nice break from a lot of the self-help and entrepreneurial reading us founders tend to over-index on.

        Believe it or not, stuff did get done. They recognized the most important part is executing the idea. There was crazy amounts of commitment from everyone once an idea was sold. Also, large budgets helped 😂

        Now I run my own company and deal with more humble budgets, but have integrated a lot of these philosophies into our culture. We also have adopted principles to guide the ways in which we build solutions – always pursue the simplest explanation.

        1. 1

          That's really awesome. I dig it.

  3. 3

    I was one of these "idea" guys. I have a Google Sheets document with over 1000 ideas.

    I stopped updating that sheet a few years ago once I realized that ideas are next to worthless. 90% of ideas I had turned into something TOTALLY different once I put them out in the real world and got real feedback.

    If you're not an "idea person", I'd just go out and copy something. Then put it out in the real world, get some feedback and let the real world guide your next "ideas", they'll be pretty obvious in my experience.

    1. 1

      let the real world guide your next "ideas"

      Seems like good advice! Why stop documenting ideas though? Still seems like a valuable practice, even if execution is what matters most. No?

      1. 1

        This didn't work for me, I noted my ideas in a sheet but have revisited them only once in 5 years lol.

  4. 2

    I think it is kind of a mindset. From the interviews(lots of them from indie hackers), articles, books i have read, people start with the problem instead of idea. I tried having an idea journal but after looking back it is really a solution. A better thing, i could have done is to note down the problems, annoying or time consuming things i need to do to get things done. That way i could have filtered out things that can be solved by me and that seems to be only the first step. Then you would have to do validation, and lots of prototyping and testing.

    You can read this book called "Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All" . It speaks a lot about this.

    1. 1

      A problem journal - interesting idea!

  5. 2

    My best advice to get a good idea:
    Live your life, do your stuff, and you'll realize that many of the things you do are annoying! Find out if your friends share your opinion about the annoying thing. If they do, try to find existing products and "improve*" them by building your own product or building it from scratch!

    *improve: If the product doesn't solve the problem you're trying to solve (e.g. only 15% of the problem is solved)

    1. 2

      and you'll realize that many of the things you do are annoying!

      Haha, well said. So essentially, get annoyed and you'll find your idea. I think I can do that! But the trick must be to find something you're annoyed with that happens to land somewhere within your industry or expertise. 🤔

  6. 2

    For me ideas come easily when I try to solve a problem for someone or a process that's not working as it should.

    Trying to come up with my next business / side project ideas has been the other way around. I get stuck, mainly because it "needs to make money", it "has to be a good idea" & "it must be new to the worls". In which the burden to come up with a great idea is a bit unrealistic :)) and I stayed in a state of not starting.

    So, again for me, it was a matter of changing my perspective on ideas to start working on a simple problem/solution for someone specific to solve. By keeping it small and light, it's relative easy to get started and also much easier to keep eyes open to other, adjacent related ideas.

    1. 2

      So if I'm understanding you right, you're saying not to worry about whether an idea can be a business. Just find something that will solve a problem and build it. Worry about making money later. Is that about right?

      I like it, thanks jro. But I do wonder whether it'll end in time wasted on an unsellable product.

      Then again, I can see that it's never a waste of time... I'd learn a ton in the process, and hopefully enjoy it. And it would feel like a weight is lifted if the ideas have to pay bills.

      Would be curious about your thoughts on this!

      1. 1

        In a way you will only know if an idea is a good one, when you've taken action on it. And it might even "just" open doors to the next one.
        Key is that randomness, or call it luck, plays a big role.

        My thoughts are heavily influenced by what Daniel Vassallo (@dvassallo) calls Small bets.

        By starting smaller projects/products that show results fast, gives you feedback as early as possible if it's a good way to follow further.

        When you start small and keep it light, you don't have the feeling your life depends on it. Focus in it for weeks instead of a year and than see if it clicks. Get to your audience/target group fast.

        My experience also has been that ideas generate ideas. Start one and the next will come

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