Don't Over-Think New Ideas

If you’re a comic book artist, coming up with a new idea for a comic book must be a daunting task. Just think of all the ideas you need to generate: Who are the characters? What are they like? What do they say? Where do they live? Can I draw that?

I’m sure I’m missing tons of considerations since I know very little about comics. However, my friend Zander Cannon knows quite a bit about the subject, being a comic book artist.

Zander wrote an interesting top-10 list on his blog about How To Come Up With Ideas. He offers some great tips on how to brainstorm and look for inspiration. However, I think his 10th point is most relevant to just about anyone who has to come up with ideas on a daily basis.

This could apply to business ideas, blog posts, song writing, etc.:

10. Extrapolate. This may be the most important one of all. Most great ideas are actually just halfway decent ideas that someone extrapolated very, very well. For example, the idea around the Harry Potter novels: there is a secret population of wizards. Ho hum. However, once you start saying, “oh, then there are some wizards who are born to Muggles, some who are full bloods and hate the Muggles, and there’s a secret wizard boarding school, actually several of them, and these are the classes they teach, and…” and so on. Getting good at this skill not only helps you create cool things once you have an idea to start from, it also helps you recognize a good idea when you see it. If hearing the idea makes your brain explode with ideas about “oh, then there must be this, and then there must be that, and these people could do this other thing…”, then you know you’ve got a good one.

That’s absolutely the case. Most great ideas are not 100% original thoughts. They’re just 1% to 10% improvements over ideas that already existed.

For example, it’s much easier to discover the double helix of DNA once Rosalind Franklin had done X-ray diffraction images of DNA.

In today’s web business model terms, here are three ideas on how to create the next big thing:

Plenty of Fish created one of the fastest growing personals sites in the world by making the service free while serving ads. Has anyone done this in your industry yet?

Amazon thinks they know more about web hosting than just about anyone, and will let you host your stuff with them for the cost of storage and bandwidth used. Could a new business be based around some skill your company is particularly awesome at?

Or, build a business around personas. Do you know of a business that’s great, but fails to connect with people like your mother? What would they need to do differently to close the gap? There is the opportunity.

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