Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been to a few networking events, and, apart from being great for meeting people and doing business, I think they’re a great way to develop your ideas. Just the simple act of describing your idea to someone – before they’ve even given you any feedback – can bring you fresh realisations. Letting the idea out of your head gives it the oxygen it needs to develop.
In the book ‘How to have kick-ass ideas’ this ‘letting out’ is formalised in the exercise ‘Blurt it out':
- Find a friend who is a good listener.
- Talk to them about the opportunity you have. You must talk uninterrupted, fast and uncensored for 7 minutes 26 seconds (approx.). This can seem like a long time, but it is key to keeping going.
- Your friend jots down 3 or 4 things they have heard that seem key, interesting, weird or just plain funny. They are not taking dictation, they focus on you and what you are saying, and that means eye contact!
- Your friend then talks to you for 3 minutes about all they heard. They may well play back their ideas about it too. That’s cool. Usually their observations take a minute or so, and this can be great stimulus. Encourage them to blurt as you did.
- You then speak for 2 minutes about where you’re at – in other words, what you now think.
- Write down what you have learnt about the issue and any ideas you have had.
This idea of sharing ideas is developed further by Michael Michalko in ‘ThinkerToys’ . He suggests that experts tend to put ‘borders’ around subjects and so limit their possibilities. Whereas non-experts don’t have enough expertise to draw borders and so look everywhere for ideas. This is why, according to Michalko, breakthrough ideas are usually found by non-experts.
So, to develop or get ideas, talk to people – and more specifically, talk to people outside your industry/field. Which is why I think networking events are so good – I didn’t meet any other facilitators at the events I recently attended, but I met accountants, designers, printers…all non-experts in my field and all really helpful.
How diverse are the people you talk to and meet?