of ideas. In the Ten Faces of Innovation,
Tom Kelley writes that when it comes
to brainstorming, the focus should be
on quantity of ideas rather than quality. This is because sometimes an idea
that seems silly or obtuse can spark
other ideas and paths of thinking.
One of the best ways to foster creative thinking and ideas is to brainstorm regularly. Choose a topic, and
then either by yourself or with a group
spend time coming up with ideas
around that topic. When I get bored in
meetings, sometimes I will spend a few
minutes brainstorming or thinking
about something that is on my mind.
Listen and observe. Recently I read
Walter Isaacson’s biography of
Leonardo da Vinci, published in 2017. The
book described the notebooks da Vinci
kept; what struck me was how observant da Vinci was. He would study details and notice small things from the
way hair curled (seen in his artwork),
to the way water flowed (applied to his
innovations on hydrodynamics), to the
way people’s faces change when they
smile (seen in the Mona Lisa). By observing the world around him he was able
to translate what he saw into new ideas
Acting as an anthropologist and
observing people in their “natural
habitat” can help you generate new
ideas. Watch the way people do cer-
tain things and how they react in dif-
ferent situations. For example, when-
ever I am at the airport I watch people
build your expertise, you may even cre-
ate your own modules, systems, or li-
braries to help solve problems.
There are many instances like these,
where being creative and innovative
and generating good ideas can help
you contribute more to your company,
profession, or community.
After working in a few startups, I
have learned from people, books, and
experience. Here are a few key pointers that may lead you to generate more
Pay attention to friction. Whenever
something doesn’t work the way you
think it should, pay attention and think
about why. What could be changed that
would make it better? For example,
suppose there is a website you like to
use, but when visiting the site, you always click on the wrong button. How
would you change it? Would you relocate the button?
I think about this a lot when regarding my collection of travel mugs. Each
one I buy has a serious flaw: the glass
one chipped when I dropped it, the clear
plastic one became stained after continued use, or the tops that are easy to open
have a tendency to leak. By focusing
on the points of friction, you can start
thinking about how you would design
one that addresses those problems.
Paying attention to how you com-
pensate for missing functionality,
or where you get frustrated using an
item, will teach you to start focusing
on problems that can be solved. As you
hone in on these problems over time,
you will start to see opportunities that
could be turned into new products or
What Makes Something Great?
When you use products you love, think
about the features that delight you. By
articulating what you like about a product, you can pick up patterns and gain
a better understanding of motivation
(which can then be applied to users of
For example, I started using a workout app called Sweat, and I absolutely
love it. Why?
• I like that it keeps me accountable
tracking my progress.
Motivation: I am more likely to work
out and stick with the program.
• I like that it shows a video of how to
do each exercise.
Motivation: I know I am doing things
correctly, so I won’t get injured.
• I like that the workouts are around
Motivation: I am busy, so the short
duration allows me to fit exercise into
When you understand what motivates users, you can help them reach
their goals (easier, better, faster). It can
also help you discover methods and
patterns that can be applied to your
next big idea and help you deliver more
value to customers.
Brainstorm. If you want to have
great ideas, the first step is to have lots