2013-12-13 / Columnists


By Rick Horan

We are always talking about ideas, but in this week let’s explore the difference between merely having an idea and being inventive, that is, taking a concept or notion and turning it into a something that actually works.

For the most part, this column and the Ideas Improv Project itself, where Boyle and I roam the streets of New York with a camera and “Ideas Wanted” sign, asking people for their ideas, has had a pretty lax standard about what we consider an idea. (Hey Kevin, we need to hit the High Line again, it’s been way too long!)

About the only limitation we had to apply was to limit political pontificating disguised as ideas. This often happened when there was some big political story in the news, like Occupy Wall Street. For the most part however, we welcomed all ideas, big or small, about “anything and everything.” New gadgets and business ideas were my favorites, especially the ones where you could tell that a lot of thought went into them.

Most ideas however were more about what people wish existed. “Concepts” that they wanted somebody else to design and build. Inevitably this led to the ongoing debate as to what actually qualified as an “idea.”

Example: “My idea is that the shoreline should be surrounded by a device that would generate electricity from the tides and swells and provide protection during a storm.” OK, great concept but how do you intend to make it? Where’s the invention? “Well, that’s for someone else to figure out.”

We ended up agreeing that they all qualify as ideas, just at different levels of development. After all, we were stopping people cold on the street. We were lucky to get anything. What was I expecting, blueprints? Or maybe written business plan or PowerPoint presentation? C’mon!

Most ideas are born of a simple desire to make something or make something better. So it’s quite normal to identify a need and call it an idea. It all has to start somewhere, but if you should go beyond simply identifying the need and try working out the details to make it work. That’s the real challenge. It’s also where the value is. As we all know, ideas themselves are a dime a dozen.

Got an idea, or concept? Share it at RickHoran@IdeasImprov.com

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