Where good ideas come from

The 1 Line Description

Some perspectives / lenses to try on when hunting for great ideas.

When to use it

Very early ideation.

Key Ideas

*This is a short extract from this LinkedIn Post by Ash Maurya.


"Good ideas can come from anywhere -- even guesses (science runs on this).

The key then, is sourcing a diversity of ideas, not following them blindly, but rather putting them through a time-boxed ranking and testing process-- which is what the funnel above depicts."


Sources of good ideas, along with their potential pitfalls! 

1. Scratch your own itch

You encounter a problem or pet peeve and want to do something about it.

Pitfall/challenge: Tempting to assume the problem is worth solving (big enough) and rushing to build a solution.

2. R&D/Invention

You (or your organization) want to commercialize a new technology that either you invented or view as trending e.g. blockchain, IoT.

Pitfall/challenge: Solution looking for a problem.

3. Analogs

You find a successful idea that works in a different setting or geography and decide to localize (or globalize) it.

Pitfall/challenge: Will your customers behave identically? If not, how will you overcome this? If so, what’s your defense against the incumbent expanding into your setting?

4. Accidental discovery

You encounter an unexpected outcome (either success or failure) and instead of dismissing it, you decide to explore further.

Pitfall/challenge: Breakthrough hidden in failure is often missed because failure is uncomfortable and the immediate reaction is to hide it or run away from it. Breakthrough hidden in success is also often missed and attributed to the wrong root causes.

5. Customer requests/behavior change/metrics

Customers ask for new features, capabilities either prompted or unprompted. Or you reveal unmet needs through exploration and/or metrics.

Pitfall/challenge: A lot of these requests are really solutions disguised as problems. Customers (especially early adopters) also have a bias for the solution.

6. External changes

There is an ongoing shift in industry, market, or customer behavior you decide to exploit.

Pitfall/challenge: If time sensitive, most of the winnings could go to those with already established paths to customers or unfair advantage, like insider information.

7. Innovation Theory

In pursuit of new growth, the organization makes a big bet built on a new strategy or theory of innovation e.g. Godrej applying Theory of Disruptive Innovation.

Pitfall/challenge: Left unchecked, faith-based projects can create a false sense of progress by attempting to brute-force reality to fit the theory.