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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Seattle 2.0, and imported to GeekWire as part of our acquisition of Seattle 2.0 and its archival content. For more background, see this post.

By Matt Paulin

This is my first post to Seattle2.0 so I think I should give a brief introduction.  I am fascinated with the power of ideas and I’m working on building a community and a process for generating them in bulk and vetting them early.  All of this is being done through an organization called the Seattle Think Tank.  We meet regularly and try out different techniques for generating and reviewing ideas with a group. The intention is to help the ideas mature into solid starting points and to help people congregate around the ideas they are inspired by. 
I’m sure you remember the definition of a noun as a person, place or thing.  Sometimes “Idea” shows up in the definition as well.  But, it always seemed very broad and somewhat as an afterthought.  To me, ideas are the most interesting nouns.  They are fleeting, appearing when you don’t expect, vanishing when you might need them most.  One may be a gem where the others are meaningless and you may never know that until you have explored an idea for years.  You might hold your ideas in secret, you might use your ideas to persuade, encourage, create, or socialize. Ultimately if an idea is strong, it will never really go away but has a lasting effect.

From my perspective they are the wild card of business.  A good one will change everything.  But, there is a catch.  As the originator of an idea you may be too skeptical and dismiss it before you tell anyone or you may be very optimistic and pursue it with gusto only to realize you ignored a couple critical flaws.

Here are a few mental exercises to help you with your own ideation.
  1. Find some way that you can record your ideas before you forget them.  Paper and pencil is the simplest and least distracting to use.  After you get in the habit of realizing you have an idea you might notice you actually have a lot of them.
  2. Spend 30 minutes talking with friends about ideas.  To prevent judgement, everyone involved must start each sentence with “yes, and …”.
  3. Anything you can buy started out as an idea.  Each of these ideas started with a problem the originator was trying to solve.  When you look at an item, take it apart mentally and try to find the source of inspiration for each decision. 

Let me leave you with this last though.  The best metaphor I have found is that idea generation is like a jazz ensemble.  Each person’s personality contributes to the process the same way that each musician adds to the music.  This may be with notes of skepticism, encouragement, narcissism, or pure logical reasoning.  In playing with a communal idea it is altered and changed in a way that only will happen because of the people in the group.  The final result is something that is both unique and vanishing.  Simply talking about it will change it again.

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