Making Ideas Useful
We’ve all had a good idea, but what makes it useful? Other people will value it only if it helps them reach their goals.
It may sound harsh, but ideas that don’t get used, go nowhere and help no one. I have tons of ideas sitting in sketchbooks. None of them are helping anyone. So, I’m writing this blog post to myself. Good things seem to happen when I take my own advice.
I’m in the problem solving business. The creative ideas I generate bridge the gap between a problem and a possible solution. The more of them I can put into practice, the better.
Only when an idea is tested can it be refined into something that helps solve a problem.
Those ideas in my sketchbook aren’t being tested, so we can’t know if they’re useful or not. I have to fight back the comfort of having untested ideas. The feeling of safety can sometimes be one of the biggest hurdles to your success.
I have no problem looking stupid or screwing up. All my spelling and grammar errors can attest to that fact. Nothing good happens if I choose to keep my ideas safe from critique.
The more comfortable you are with your bad ideas, the faster you can reach good ones. I’m defining a good idea here as one that helps me reach my goal or one that can help someone else reach their goal.
Nothing bad happens when I hide ideas.
Nothing good happens until I share them.
The good ideas, the helpful useful ones, are those left standing at the top of a pile of crap ideas. You’ve got to be comfortable with outputting piles of junk ideas before you can have a shot at having a few good ones.
When I have an idea that helps ME do something, that’s a good sign that it may prove useful to someone else. Editing the idea for general use and making it available is something I love to do for my design pals and my clients. It’s one way I can add value to what they’re doing.
With that, here’s a list of questions you can use to test your ideas until they’re bulletproof:
- Who does this idea help?
- How does it help them?
- How do they use the idea?
- How can they share it?
- What’s stopping them from using it?
Who does this idea help?
It’s important to get specific about WHO your idea can help the most. Of course not all ideas can help all people. Your idea has the best chance of moving the needle when you can clearly define who the idea helps. List some words that describe the person your idea is for. You may find they’re just like you.
How does it help them?
What problem does your idea help them to solve? What problem did it help YOU solve? Spell it out for folks so they can get a good understanding of what your idea does to help them. You want to give them enough information to decide whether your proposed idea is right for them.
How do they use the idea?
Does your idea involve steps? Most do. Walk through the steps you used to discover and put into practice the idea you’re proposing. Think of this step as the user’s guide to your helpful idea. Numbered lists are your friend when answering this question.
How can they share it?
Sharing is caring. Sharing helps develop the trust required to build solid relationships, like this blog post for example. Ideas are free and their implementation holds great value. Share your ideas without the expectation of reciprocation. Avoid the desire to have a transactional mindset with ideas. It’s a strange phenomenon, but the more ideas you give away, the more ideas you’ll have.
What’s stopping them from using it?
Did something hold you back from using your idea to solve your problem? Was there a negative thought that prevented you from moving forward? Did you hesitate to use your solution because of some sort of fear? Talk about what held you back. Talk about why your fears turned out to be false. Then, talk about what you learned after you used your idea.
It’s okay to have a bunch of ideas that don’t solve a problem, but only if you keep going. Giving up never solved anything. Share what you learn along the way as a problem solver and you’ll align yourself with the right people.
Good things happen when you give people the means to solve problems. Making your ideas useful, and sharing them, gives you a great feeling. It can put you in the position to do more of it in the future.
The best book I’ve read on generating ideas.
The best book I’ve read on turning good ideas into habits.