Have you always wanted to make your own ideas happen, but found life has got in the way? Alex Pellew and Martin Amor – co-writers of new book The Idea in You – share how to find an idea for a product or project, and how to build it into something that changes your life.
Get into the habit of making things
Get into the habit of having a project on, even if it’s just making a video of your holiday, or writing a poem about the news, or creating a website for your family. Before long, an idea that will change your life will appear and you’ll have the confidence to take it on.
Notice what you lose yourself in, even if it doesn’t seem like ‘proper’ work
Whenever you lose track of time, reflect on what it was you were doing. Explore what it is about the activity that you love so much.
These are clues about what you enjoy, and a good steer towards finding an idea you’ll stick with. Perhaps you love getting the house decorated at Christmas time? You may not want to start a business in home decoration, but you are certainly getting clues about your love for design, ritual and family.
What do you lose yourself in?
Bring fresh stimulus into your life
Do you go the same way to work every day, read the same newspaper, watch the same TV shows, even sit on the same side of the sofa every evening? Your brain needs fresh stimulus to have new ideas. Get systematic about this: do something new every day for a month. Your ideas will start flowing before long.
When an idea arrives, write it down
This brings it to life. So long as it’s only in your head, it hasn’t really been born. Once it’s written, you can have a good look at it and start improving it. Stick it on the fridge and have another look at it tomorrow.
To give it energy, give it a name, describe the need it meets and explain briefly how it works. Draw a picture of it. Start making it real. You can change it any time you like.
Make sure you’ve got an idea not a ‘thought’
An idea is something you can do. A thought is just a goal, a problem you still need to solve. This is a thought: Put a man on the moon. This is an idea: The NASA Space Program. Look at your idea and keep asking it ‘how?’ until it becomes something you can do.
Create a Version Zero of your idea
It’s tempting to commit early to your idea and invest big money in a fancy prototype or website, or a shop – whatever makes your idea feel real. Resist this if you can. In the early days especially, enjoy learning about your idea as cheaply as you can by creating the lowest possible budget version of your idea.
We call this a Version Zero. It should be just enough to give you the experience of making your idea and exploring how it works and no more. If your idea is a restaurant, get some friends round to your house, create a menu and treat them as clients.
If it’s a product, use your phone and free editing software to make a video showing how your idea works and share it with your friends.
Do it for love at first; the money will follow
People will ask you how your idea is going to make money. Don’t worry if you can’t answer this in the beginning. It will become clear over time as you build it. Above all, make sure that you are enjoying what you are doing.
This is what will sustain you through the rough and smooth of making your idea happen. Besides, technology is changing markets so rapidly these days that it is impossible to predict what will make money. Just find something you want to do and enjoy it.
Get comfortable with imperfection
It’s important to share your idea so you can improve it based on people’s feedback. Your idea does not need to be perfect to do this. People are used to seeing products which are work in progress and websites which are in beta. This is how a creator learns. Share your idea even when it’s not perfect. Just signal that it’s work in progress, invite feedback and start improving it.
Work out your ‘why’
People buy into why you’re doing something as much as what you’re doing. Develop some bigger objectives for your idea beyond just making money – think about how you want it to change the world. Tell your customers about this. This will create social energy around your idea because it gives your fans something to think about and tell their friends about.
Start today! Spend five minutes on this today. Then you’ve begun.
Martin Amor and Alex Pellew are the authors of The Idea In You: How to Find It, Build It and Change Your Life (Portfolio Penguin, £12.99). Buy it on Amazon