Would you like to learn how to spot great ideas? Me too! You’ll find some great tips below.
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Introduction to How to Spot Great Ideas
Spotting great ideas is something that I struggle with. I’ve written several blog posts, trying to get to the heart of spotting great ideas. I haven’t been completely satisfied, so I keep on working at it because its’ so important. I think the ability to spot ideas is very important because we are living in the idea economy. I’ve discovered though, that when looking for ideas and new things to learn, it’s critical to think about your vision and who you’d like to become. Align your learning with that image of yourself. What does success mean to you? What will success look like?
You are on a journey to get the key skills needed for future jobs. Some of the skills you need to succeed in work and life are job specific, while some will make you more marketable and valuable, while others will make it easier for you to compete in a global marketplace. You are participating in the Strategic Reading Challenge because you want all of this for yourself. Additionally, if you participate in the reading challenge as it’s outlined, you will read 60 books during the year. That means that you will have access to many potential ideas. What could you do with those ideas? How could your life change if your tried one or two?
When people read books, I always recommend that they extract the five big ideas. For years and years, while I was reading, if something sounded like a great idea, I made note of it, and it became a great idea. A few months ago, it occurred to me that I was putting the cart before the horse. What I should have doing, was to wait until the end of the book, then when reviewing my notes, I would then pick out the five big ideas.
How to Spot Great Ideas
I had no formula for picking the ideas. The process for me, was purely intuitive and instinctive, which bothered me. Since reading books to learn the key skills to write book summaries, I’ve read several books relating to idea generation. But what I wanted, was the ability to spot a great idea when I see it, not to necessarily generate one. So, what does a great idea look like? I often tend to make things more complex than they need to be. In the end, all I needed to do, was tweak my process. There is nothing wrong with using your instinct and intuition to decide what the big ideas are in a book that you read.
If you read actively, that is a form of learning, therefore you will know instinctively what the great ideas are from the book. What I needed to tweak the process, was to add a few guidelines to improve the quality of the final ideas I selected.
The Idea Hunter: Four Idea Principles
In the book, The Idea Hunter, I found four Idea Principles that make it much easier to spot great ideas, or even to hunt for great ideas.
Interested: You have to be interested in the topic and in the world around you. So, in this instance, you’re interested in learning the 10 key skills needed for future jobs. You not only want to learn the skills, but you want to master them. To master the key skills means that you have to use them – apply them in the workplace. You will not take any action to learn the skill unless you sincerely have an interest in the skill.
Diversification: I’ve mentioned a few times now, that I’ve read it several times, that to become an expert on a topic, you have to read the top five books. The top five books are not necessarily the bestsellers. What you want is a diversity of viewpoints, so that you can get a solid understanding of the topic. What this means in this instance, is that if you want to learn the key skills, it makes sense to read different books on the topic. And if you’re interested in the skill, you could read blogs, journal articles, watch TED Talks, or even listen to a few podcasts. The aim here, is to Diversify your information sources. And it’s worth mentioning that it’s important not to use the same sources that your competitors use. To want to stand apart from the crowd.
Exercise: If you’re Interested in learning the key skills, and you Diversify the information you read to learn the skills, you’re creating an environment to Exercise your idea muscles. Keep a notebook to jot down ideas as they start to percolate. Connect your personal experiences and your impressions to what you are learning.
Agile: After you’ve read a book, I advise people to pick the five big ideas. During the Strategic Reading Challenge, you read five books each month. That’s 25 ideas every month. But I also recommend that you start to combine ideas from the five books. You become Agile by combining ideas.
A Technique for Producing Ideas: Two Principles
While re-reading A Technique for Producing Ideas, I discovered that there are two important principles in the book that are worth thinking about:
- An idea is a new combination.
- The ability to make new combinations is heightened by an ability to see relationships.
These two principles are very important because they focus your thinking when selecting the great ideas from the books you read. They open your thinking to what’s possible, and train your mind to see relationships among different pieces of information. And with Principle 1, you’ll often find that when you are reviewing your notes, two pieces of what may seem like disparate information, can be combined to form one great idea. The two principles from A Technique for Producing Ideas work well with the four idea principles in The Idea Hunter.
The Bright Idea Box: Four Idea Questions
Additionally, to add rigor to your thinking, and mine as well, I came across some information in The Bright Idea Box to add to the mix. Like me, when you’re reviewing your book notes, some of the information may simply feel like a good idea. It could be your intuition or your instincts leading you down the path. Jot down your ideas, then answer the first three questions. The fourth question you won’t be able to answer right away. Now remember that this post is written in the context of spotting ideas from the books you are reading to learn the 10 key skills needed for future jobs. Therefore, each book you read, you are reading it because you want to learn and master one of the 10 skills. With that in mind, in your opinion, what are the big ideas in the book?
- What is the name of the big idea?
- What is a brief description of the idea, including what problem it addresses, and how it solves it?
- What value or benefits will the idea deliver to the customer or company?
- How much will it cost to try or implement the idea? Does the cost justify the benefits?
Final Thoughts on How to Spot Great Ideas
Following this more structured approach to spotting ideas feels more manageable to me. Although this is not the way I have done things in the past, life is about making changes, and doing things differently when you have new information. Imagine if you will, you are reading 60 books during a year, to learn key skills to thrive in the future, wouldn’t it be great, if you generated an idea that can transform your life in the process.
At the end of the year, what if you revisited the ideas that you combined each month, then started the process anew, to combine the combined ideas. Quite a mouthful I’d say, but it’s something to think about.