Ctrl+Alt+Del: Unlocking your next BIG IDEA!

November 14. POSTED 4 years ago

I manage Innovation programs for eBay Inc. and give keynote speeches on Innovation. One comment I often hear from folks is that "speakers are mostly talking logical, but seldom giving tangible tips for where and how to find the next big ideas". The question is fair, because I had the same difficulty when I ventured into innovation space. Now that I have picked up some tricks along the way, partly through my experience rest from others, I would like to share them with you. Who does not want to own few big-ideas/patents on their backpack? So you are ready?

As they say, innovation stops when it is routine and you feel content. So be hungry, and never prevent your creative juices from flowing. A great way could be the "change of scene". When I drive to work which is around 25 miles and takes 50 minutes each way, I take different routes every week. First day could be that you are curious, next day you may start noticing subtle changes from your prior route to this. The more and more you process the scenes and observe how people interact with the circumstances, you may be able to come up with fresh thoughts/ideas. I won't say this magic happens all the time, but keep trying and you will be lucky to find your moment of 'Eureka'. The key is that you should be hungry and observant.

Another way to get my inspiration for the new ideas is to follow few of the handpicked hashtags such as #thissucks, #360possibles, #innochat, #fml, etc. When you do so, you will be presented many real life problems which may trigger you to pursue a solution. Who knows, even some of these 'why-not, what-if, how-come, etc.' shared in social streams could lead you to the next big idea!

This is an inspiration from Tom Peters's concept of "creative swiping" that suggests taking another idea and applying it to a new domain, market or scene, and tweaking the execution to make it your own. So attend as many Hackathons, Maker Faire, and Meet Ups as possible, and listen to all the creative discussions that may inspire you to find your next big idea. Let us be clear, I am not suggesting you to steal others' ideas, it is more like X for Y.

Another trick I taught myself is to challenge the status quo of whatever interesting things I see around me. It could be for instance, paying for my coffee at Starbucks point-of-sale or swiping my card to get into a BART station. Your thoughts may be meaningless, or even be whacky, but build a discipline of vetting them before trashing them.

Being innovative truly is contagious, and interacting consistently with aspiring innovators from Kickstarter, Indiegogo (etc) will allow you to develop the mindset and skills you need to become an amazing innovator. My reasoning for this is that when you are exposed to this type of environment, you will be stimulated to produce ideas and inspired to present them properly and articulately. One easy way you can start scoring these acquaintances is by pledging your support to their ideas, either in a large way or through a small token of appreciation.

Another rational tip would be to post Apple's memoriam for Jobs to your wall. This will consistently remind you of the outlook you should have to be innovative. Want to try?

"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignoring them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Finally, when it comes to innovation, good ideas are a dime a dozen. So keep in mind that creating innovation is not about just getting a bunch of ideas, but picking the right one and executing it the right way.

And if you do so, you can be the next Zuckerberg, at least the next Palmer Luckey.