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Where to get ideas?

I'd like to develop a product and sell it.  I have all the right skill set; where do i get these bloody ideas? How can i enhance my stale/dry creativity?

Where are these fricken ideas?

I am tired and bored to death to be working for others.


Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I think it's somewhat like book authorship.  Write about what you know.  A specific industry that you've had experience in, a problem you've solved before, etc.

Barring that, a partner with deep, industry specific knowledge would be helpful.

General purpose utilities and software are crowded with noise right now.  Difficult for a one-man-band to be heard.

Also, be willing to consider boring applications.  Unless you can think of the next Napster/WinAmp, etc.

Bill Carlson
Tuesday, July 30, 2002


Actually, I do have to say "good thread!".

Part of the idea process is to be able to see things from the right perspective - somehow you have to sit back and look at something differently and then there's the chance for "a ha!".

Being stressed, uninspired, unmotivated doesn't help. Relaxing and stepping back from the problem sometimes proves to be the most effective way of finding a good solution.

Walter Rumsby
Tuesday, July 30, 2002

To be honest, I don't think this is a good way to start a company. Sure, its possible that some deep meditation or concentration will net you a great idea for a killer app, but more then likely you'll think of a product that isn't profitable.  My advice would be to keep working in the industry, and be on the lookout for good ideas.  If you stumble onto something, think about it and go from there. I dont' think it works as well the other way around.  Good luck.

Vincent Marquez
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I think, Vincent is right about this. The idea should definitely be there first. And it should be your own :-)

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

One idea: Write a truly intuitive Word Processor.

Mark Alexander Bertenshaw
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I like this model (shades of open source):

(1)  Write an app for your own use.
(2) Expand it a bit so the guy in the next cube can use it ...
then either ...
(3) Give it away for free or
(4) Make it "consulting ware" (you have to know some people to do this) or
(5) Keep the code, then find various businesses willing to pay for "data processing" or other services/consulting.

If you 3:

Write a book like "Learning Matt++", speak at conferences, sell Matt++ training, and otherwise act like Linus Torvalds and Larry Wall.

If you 4:

Eventually move your product towards becoming shrink-wrapped software, OR develop a reputation for custom-built applications.  (IE you built a web tookit in perl, that makes it easy for you to write web apps for various customers.)

If you 5:

This is harder to do in the 2000's than it was in the 1980's, but there are still several niche industries and companies that need "data processing" services.  Think of it like graphic arts, but different. :-)

Just my $0.02 ...

Matt H.
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

"How can i enhance my stale/dry creativity?"

The glib answer would be to do something creative.  I get the feeling that you are looking for creativity in a fairly narrow spectrum (such as programming) while you might want to try doing creating things in other media.  Take an art class, learn to play an instrument, or some other such activity. 

This might not give you the flash of insight necessary to come up with the next killer app, but it should give you a few new perspectives to view the world from. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

"How can i enhance my stale/dry creativity?"

I'd recommend finding a copy of "A Whack on the Side of the Head - How to Unlock your Mind for Innovation" by Roger von Oech. There are other books on creativity, only a few of which I've read, so there may be better ones. It's my favorite of the ones I've read, though.

One interesting tidbit from the book: He mentions an oil company that brought in consultants to find out what differentiated their creative people from the non-creative ones. The consultants found that the main difference between the two groups was that the creative people thought of themselves as creative.

I try to keep that in mind.

Steve Wheeler
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

"It is nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty"

Einstein, 1949.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

You don't have to get overly creative. Find a need and fill it.

And heaven forbid, please do not develop an intuitive word processor! How many does the world need?

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I think the key to what you have said is "sell it". Given this as a goal, the thing to do is to make a product that scratches and itch or you will never sell it. If you know a lot of people with a head ache, then selling asprin is a good thing. Make sure your product fills a need and solves a pain. If it doesnt, then dont do it because you wont "sell it".

I once developed a technology that in the long term reduced development and maintenance by 60%, but when I tried to "sell it", people wanted something now, not later on.

Basically, if you had a headache and someone said you had the choice if two pills, one that would remove your headache now, or one that would remove you headache in a week, but guarenteed you never had another headache you would be amazed by how many people choose the instant fix.

Sure hope this rambling helped.


James Ladd
Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Hey Steve.

I think the oil company execs deserved a whack on the head with a two by four!

Wonder how much the consultants were paid to state the obvious.

How did management determine who was creative and who was not?

Some of those not deemed creative possibly created the environment in which ideas could flourish. Without them, the so called creative ones might not have generated their ideas.

Put someone in a vacuum, and nothing. Like ! said, learn an instrument, play sport, read new types of books. Only by interacting with something new will your mind find material to be creative with.

Thursday, August 1, 2002


Thursday, August 1, 2002


have you considered partnering up with your compliment? Getting together with someone who has great ideas and has commercial instincts, but lacks the skills to get it build might be just the thing. Be the Woz and find a Jobs.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, August 1, 2002

IMHO, I think a good way to find new ideas for software is to interact with others. Especially people you want to target. I like to peruse messageboards (like this one), newgroups, and hang out on irc with other developers. I like to build tools for developers because being one myself I think I can relate to what they need or want because I usually need/want it myself. Just a single thread on a messageboard might spark an idea. I like to ask people outside the development world what they like/dont like, how they use their current tools, what they think about the future of software and how they see it. Sometimes this is simply a conversation with friends or family who don't know (and don't care) squat about software. This gives me a different perspective.

Another way is to just get away. I like to go fishing early in the morning myself :D

Ian Stallings
Thursday, August 1, 2002

Oh, one more thing - I would like to second finding a partner. I am building a new software business myself with a partner and this has been invaluable. We both push each other to perform and ask the questions that need to be asked. Sometimes these aren't the most polite conversations (two giant egos) but 99% of the time the end result is a positive outcome.

Ian Stallings
Thursday, August 1, 2002

    I think the oil company execs deserved a whack on the
    head with a two by four!"

Why? Because they perceived a situation that needed to be improved and tried to do something about it?

    How did management determine who was creative and
    who was not?

I don't know, and the book doesn't say. Quoting:

"Several years ago, a major oil company was concerned about the lack of creative productivity among some of its Research and Development personnel. To deal with this problem, top management brought in a team of psychologists to find out what differentiated the creative R&D people from the less creative ones. The hope was that their findings could be used to stimulate the less creative people.

"The psychologists asked the scientists all kinds of questions ranging from what their educational background was to where they grew up to what their favorite color was.

"After three months of study, the psychologists found that the chief factor which separated the two groups was: The creative people thought they were creative and the less creative people didn't think they were.

"As a consequence, the people who thought they were creative allowed themselves to get into a germinal frame of mind and play with their knowledge. The 'I'm not creative' people were either too practical or routinized in their thinking."

As someone who is more comfortable with stability and routine, I do try to keep this in mind so that my routine doesn't become a rut.

Steve Wheeler
Friday, August 2, 2002

Thanks Steve... I knew there was a study that found the major difference was creative people were ones that thought they were creative.

Being creative is not easy... socially.  The vast majority are content to be part of the herd.  It takes a lot of personal integrity and courage to push your ideas through the contentment with status quo.  If you are easily controlled through social pressure, and unwilling to assert yourself then you will give up quickly and eventually consider yourself non-creative.

As for idea generation, Gerald Weinberg has several essays on the subject - pick up one of his books.  His basic theory is that there are only 3 ways to create ideas:

Steal one,
Make a mistake,
Copulation (as in sex, putting two ideas together to make a third).

He also states that non-creative people are such, because of the conditioning that theft, error, and sex are "bad" things.

Joe AA
Saturday, August 3, 2002

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