Ideas are not Enough! #86 #cong18


Coming soon

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Coming soon

About John Horkan:

Co-owner and CEO of Horkan’s Group. John has over 30 years’ experience in business. His main responsibility is the strategic direction of Horkans Group and leading the eCommerce development across the businesses. He is pass Chairman of Retail Excellence Ireland’s e-Commerce Committee and he has participated in the Google Incubation Program for Irish Retailers. John is a founder member of DMiMayo Digital Marketing in Mayo network group. He represented Ireland at the Global E-commerce Summit in Barcelona in 2013.

Horkan’s Group is a family business that operates 4 Horkan’s Garden & Lifestyle Centre’s and 8 Petworld stores in locations across Ireland along with two eCommerce sites and

Contacting John Horkan:

You can follow John on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or email him.

By John Horkan

We have lots of Ideas every day.  Some are good and some are not so good but a brilliant idea without any action or implantation process is as worthless as no idea at all. I find that  the critical step in creating value is what comes after you generate your ideas and most of all, I know that bringing people on board is the key to turning a good idea or even a great idea into something of real value to you or others.

I am immersed in business planning at the moment, reviewing the performance in our business over the last year and looking forwards to next year. It’s quite interesting to look back at all the ideas that were on last years plan but never made it to fruition. Some made it to the plan document. Many got further down the road and were started and even put on to someones agenda, others moved on to a battle plan that we like to call our implementation plan but also failed to become a reality. Many reasons exist why these ideas never made it. People were too busy, had too many other ideas in their calendar, didn’t spend enough time in planning, slow decision making, lack of resources and many more. But on reflection as a business we have had our most productive and transformative year yet. We were very successful in getting a small number of our  most important ideas implemented. Not all were delivered but the big ones were. We’re launching a brand new product in January and will be live with a complete business solution also in January which will replace 13 individual business applications. These two ideas will help us grow our revenue on one side and improve our efficiency while reducing costs on the other side. Why did these make it and others did not?

Over the past 2 years i have been following a guide. A buddy of mine told me about it when we were out cycling.  He received funding from a Venture group and at the first meeting with his new mentor he was handed a copy of Scaling Up by Verne Harnish. I love learning so I had my own copy delivered within 2 days. I started to learn. A lot was very familiar as I have been reading business books for many years. Verne has combined many of the great thinkers in modern business and brought their ideas together in one book. Within the month I had purchased 5 copies and all the senior team got a present of one. It has given us a common framework and language.  Scaling Up is more of a guide than a business book. You pull from it what you need but I find we keep going back to it again and again to learn and guide our work.  It has been an invaluable guide in our business. It has helped us create new ideas but munch more importantly it has helped us bring the best of these to fruition.  We have developed a rhythm of meeting which keeps a focus on what is important. We connect people in a structured, transparent and measured form. We align our daily, weekly, monthly and annual meetings around implementation of important ideas and keep a finger on the pulse of our progress. We develop our ideas and select only the ones which we believe are the most important ones. These are our rocks. These are communicated across the business and we introduce a quarterly theme which everyone in the company is involved in to ensure we have total buy in and support. When we achieve our quarterly theme we celebrate our achievement across the whole company. This year it has been free lunches for every employee where they celebrated their work with their teammates.

The major lesson was around focus, that everyone in our business knows and understands what we are trying to do and what their role is in achieving our goals. We are like many businesses producing many good ideas but now we have become a little better at identifying the best of these and at getting them across the line.

As I work through our business planning process I am amazed at all the new ideas along with ones we have resurrected and sharpened up. These have come from across the business.  We are at that stage of setting them out and sifting through them. It is very much a team process with feedback from everyone in the company as well as from customers and outside partners. In a week or two we will be filtering them down to a few we believe will make the difference next year. What will they be? It’s an exciting process but one I always have trouble with when it’s time to say no to many of the ideas on the board. Some will no doubt be ones I came up with myself. Maybe none of mine will make the final cut. But there will be a final cut and then we get to map these out and get on with making them become reality. I look forward to next year’s quarterly celebration, sitting down with the people who made the ideas become reality. We are all going in one direction and it feels great.

P.s I have been reading about Design Thinking and how it helps teams use design and creative process within business. I  would love to hear from anyone who has used it successfully in their business.

Necessity is the Mother….. #87 #cong18


A lot has been said and written about creating the perfect circumstances and frameworks for creativity and ideation. However, some of the best ideas have been conceived as an answer to a difficult situation, with very few resources and no formal support. The necessity is truly the Mother of Invention, and thus, ideas!

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Best ideas come when under pressure to react to a situation
  2. When faced with very few resources we tap into our own resourcefulness
  3. Perfect ideas can come from imperfect situations
  4. Difficult situations test our tenacity and make for better problem-solution analysis

About Helena Deane:

Helena Deane is the Horizon 2020 Adviser and Project Support Executive at WestBIC, an EU Busines Innovation Centre with HQ in Galway, as well as the Fusion Programe Consultant for Intertrade Ireland and Principal Consultant at Business Connection Ireland based in Cong. Her educational background is in European Business Administration, having graduated First Class in this field from Universities in Cambridge and Berlin. For the last 10 years, Helena has been working with StartUps, SMEs, Universities, ITs and various Public Organisations as a consultant in the areas of R&D and innovation, technology transfer, feasibility analysis, business strategy, planning, commercialisation and funding. Helena is also engaged by the European Commission and EUREKA as an expert and evaluator to undertake specific assignments concerning research and innovation related to Horizon 2020 and the Eurostars Funding Programme.

Contacting Helena Deane:

You can contact Helena by email.

By Helena Deane

When the need for something becomes essential, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it. This is where ideation starts and often surpasses its own expectations. A lot has been said and written about creating the optimal mix of conditions to foster ideas, however it has to be recognised that good quality ideas often come from most unexpected places with the help of very few resources – in fact, it is the absence of these resources that makes the ideas come to the fore.

In Russian, the very well-known proverb of ‘Necessity is the Mother of invention’ actually translates as: “Голь на выдумки хитра.”, which literally means “poor people are crafty”. I would therefore argue that sometimes, all the stimulation of creating the right frameworks and extensive supports can be counter-productive to ideation and that the more challenging the environment, the better the ideas will be. In such circumstances, people’s boundaries are pushed and they are forced to revisit again and again what they think they know and how they apply what they know, often leading to improvisation. A case in point is the way that many businesses had to cope during the recession.

When the economy is good, companies recognize problems they have, but are not strongly motivated to fix them. For one thing, when business is booming, there is too much work to be done (and often too much money to be made) to consider making fundamental changes to processes that might slow down production or customer service.

With suddenly very little cash and other resources at disposal, it is those companies that did looked to ideas and innovation and – reinvention that managed to survive and not only that, that managed to grow despite the very difficult economic environment and the challenging climate. Arguably, being creative with many resources and with many supports is easy, however rising to the challenge under difficult and unpredictable circumstances is what we should learn to cultivate and foster….’when the going gets tough, the tough get going’, and teh tough ones have all the ideas.

The Neural Networks of Cafes and Bars … #85 #cong18


Our ideas come from the most complex and powerful computing entity on the planet – our brain! And like a computer, if you want to increase your processing power, you make a network of computers. So it is with the generation of ideas. If you want more and better ideas, you bring people together to form an ideas generation neural network …. otherwise known as ‘Congregation’!

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Our ideas come from the most complex and powerful computational machine on the planet – our brain.
  2. It contains 100 billion neurons and 100,000 miles of blood vessels.
  3. Some believe the introduction of coffee to Europe in the 16th century sparked the Renaissance.
  4. The best way to generate ideas is to bring people together to form a neural network of idea generation machines!

About Gavin Duffy:

Small business owner and father of three children under 10. Congregation offers a reprieve from those busy full-time all consuming jobs. Its a spa treatment for the mind and an early Christmas present to myself. Looking forward to meeting similar escapees on Saturday!

Contacting Gavin Duffy:

You can contact Gavin by email.

By Gavin Duffy

Ideas and their successful implementation are the reason why we have climbed to the top of the biological food chain. In philosophy terms, the very fact that ideas exist has been cited as proof that we exist! If ideas are the natural outcome from ‘I think, therefore I am’, then we are not a construct of someone or something elses imagination!

Setting aside the philosophical for now, what are the ideal conditions from which ideas are formed. Do they form in quiet contemplation, or in hard work in a lab. Can we form them in splendid isolation or do we need to tease them out by bouncing our thoughts off a friend or colleague?

Our brains are regarded by many as the single most complex piece of biology on the planet. It contains over 100 billion neurons and 100,000 miles of blood vessels consuming 20% of all oxygen used by the body. It is more than the ultimate super computer, because so far, no AI has been capable of generating original thought!

Yet, despite this, we are guilty of under using it, and indeed dulling it, by subjecting it to mind numbing things like reality TV.

If we want to get all those neurons sparking and generating ideas for us, what is the best environment we can set ourselves to make this happen? When I thought about my own personal experiences on ideas generation, the first realisation I had was that my best ideas were nearly always in the presence of a liquid, be it the water cooler, coffee (or tea) or beer! The brain literally needs lubrication!

It has been suggested that the arrival of coffee from south America and the start of the Renaissance shortly thereafter are not coincidences. Some people believe it was the first flush of caffiene in European veins which gave rise to the stimulation of new artistic and creative endeavour across Europe. Brains which for a very long time were dulled by the depressive effects of alcohol, (a dietary staple for many of the time), suddenly burst in to life. Today we carry forward this proud tradition and sit around a table drinking coffee and sharing our stimulating views.

However upon further reflection, I realised that ideas are rarely formed in isolation. The seeds are generally sown when a conversation or debate we have with someone else triggers a thought. Our brains feed off other brains to form a neural network of idea generation machines. This is why I like Congregation so much. It’s a neural network of creative and interesting brains connected and lubricated by coffee and later wine or beer.

It seemed like a good idea at the time … #84 #cong18


Over the past 20 years in tourism for me in Ireland, the ideas have poured through from all four provinces and beyond to come up with a new idea or a better idea about how to deliver the perfect product in Ireland. So, what happens to all those great ideas when the Irish invention of chasing the next big story or product idea for the Island takes hold and your great idea is left in the dust?

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas … let’s make it 4 .. Ideas!
  2. Hope Floats: How to keep your idea afloat in the glutony of ideas
  3. Hope Floats again: How to keep your spirits afloat when you’re idea is no longer THE ‘new idea’
  4. Should I stay or should I go now? 20 Years on …. what’s the new idea?

About Ginger Aarons:

Ginger is the founder of Time Travel, LLC … often called Time Travel Tours. She offers bespoke travel to Ireland & The British Isles. Passionate about what she does by offering a way to learn while you travel, introducing the best of the best in Ireland in what they do, offer and teach with common philosophies, ethics and goals for the world. She is also a travel and foodie writer for several magazines and online magazines as well as my own blog offered up in service on my website. Often referred to as the one that knows everyone, she is a connector and one that is always making a connection for someone, because to her, that is what it’s all about.

Originally from South of the Mason Dixon Line, and after 30 years, she has become an all around Portland girl that loves the fact that she gets to live and work in two of the best places in the world, the Pacific Northwest and Ireland … what could possibly be better?

Lover of music (it DOES make the world go ’round.. not money), supporter of the arts, do gooder, Masterpiece Theater watcher since the age of 12, supporter of the historic house, genealogy nut and avid antique collector.

Contacting Ginger Aarons:

You can connect with Ginger on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , Time Travel Tour or you can email her.


By Ginger Aaron

I’m one of those people that has an endless supply of ideas. I’m never lacking for one and while this is a great thing to many people, at times it can be paralyzing. Over the years that I’ve been doing tours in Ireland, I have heard many great ideas. Some of them have stuck around and some haven’t, but in my 20-year review this year and reflection on the ideas that have stuck for offering the best of the best that Ireland has to offer, I have found that we have changed the way people see Ireland. I’m not sure it is a great idea! People now travel in droves around the country in whirlwind trips that stuff every great idea in Ireland into 2 weeks or less. When I first started doing genealogy tours (1998) it was a great idea! I was ahead of the curve. When it became popular, we encountered things like the Certificate of Irish Heritage back in 2011 and that was defunct by 2015. Great idea? Perhaps, but not done for the right reasons.

As I went through my tourism view of the past 20 years, I also encountered thoughts on the ideas I have had to boost tourism and my bottom line. Some were met with support and others with support with strings attached. How could I possibly walk into the National Library with a group of 25 looking for their ancestors? Bad idea!! Great product!

So, how do you keep your hope afloat? Having a proven track record helps. Keeping up your own good ideas without succumbing to the need to reinvent what already sells or already provides an excellent experience because someone else deems it so. I find that when I take the wheel and steer, fear dissipates, and I no longer feel the need to compete with the latest idea. But I can support those latest ideas of others. One, by offering the client something unique to see and two, by offering an experience in travel, one that makes you slow down, get to know an area and giving that extra care to the provider as well, that wants their idea to be heard, spread and cherished as it grows. Not to be the last checked off thing on someone’s bucket list.

The latest idea? Food for thought after a career spanning 30 years. What’s in store? I have plenty of ideas, but which one will win out? Mine goes to the person that always seems to give me the most inspiration and keeps my hope afloat? Richard Branson. He has a test of two components.

First, the pitch must be free of jargon. Second, the pitch must be short enough to fit on a drink coaster. “If your pitch can’t fit on a beer mat, a napkin, or back of envelope, I’d rather listen to someone else’s pitch that can fit,” from his new autobiography, Finding My Virginity. “Most good ideas can be expressed very quickly.” *

So, what’s your big idea?

*Taken from an interview with Richard Branson on his new book by Carmine Gallo, Senior Contributor – Forbes Magazine

Ideas – the building blocks of civilisation #83 #cong18


The world is built and continues to develop around ideas. anyone can have one, hold one, share one. The formation of ideas can’t be stopped and they support people, organisations and governments, formally and informally. Basically our world is an amalgam of ideas, and without them…

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Ideas are of and for everyone
  2. Ideas inspire, inform and enable
  3. Ideas are infinite
  4. Without ideas, we have nothing

About Padraig McKeon:

Padraig McKeon has had a lifetime career… to date, in corporate and public communications working with two of Ireland’s largest public relations agencies and more recently as an independent consultant.

He also teaches – communications in DCU – and holds a number of directorships – both commercial and non profit.

A native of Sligo – of which he is very proud – he is insatiably curious and an inveterate sharer of thinking.

Contacting Padraig McKeon:

You can connect with Padraig on LinkedIn, Skype (padraigmckeon) or email him.

By Padraig McKeon

On the first occasion that I made a submission for Congregation it was very much in the “I had a thought” form. Over time, reflecting my working environment – and with a growing urgency in my mind of a need for an evidence base to public discourse – my contributions had become more ‘academic’ in presentation.
So, when I set about thinking through what I might write here, I found myself with a problem. Being now more conditioned to an evidence-based approach, where could I start here? What academic reference point could I credibly lean on? . What do I write about? In fact, the more I thought about it… what is an idea anyway?

Like a good student, I started with the Oxford English Dictionary (online of course ) which tells us that ‘Idea’ is a noun which is defined in the first instance as “a thought or suggestion as to a possible course of action’.

However, it tells us also that ‘idea’ can be defined as ‘a mental impression’ or, alternately, as ‘an opinion or a belief’.

So, I find myself acknowledging what I know – that an idea can be anything, and anybody’s, which is where their power lies.

Ideas are about the most accessible thing know to us – anyone can have one and no-one can ever take it away.

Ideas inspire passion – people love ideas, literally.

Ideas inspire hope – people will endure great physical and psychological hardship and discomfort in pursuit of an idea.

For the individual, their ability to have and hold an idea builds confidence and resilience.

For organisations ideas give purpose and can sustain change.

Governments fall for them or over them.

Ideas underpin education and innovation.

Ideas inspire creativity – in art, in music, science.

Ideas are generous – they can be shared with anyone

Ideas are flexible and adaptable. They can meet disagreement and dissonance and reshape.

They are also imperfect. Many are not fully formed, but they still give sustenance to thinking

You can’t stop ideas, they form and reform constantly – even when people are asleep.

Ideas are infinite… a thought can last forever.

Ideas are viral – they flow between people and enable other ideas to form around them.

Ideas are life enhancing. They sustain people – think of people far from home or denied their freedom or battling poverty or ill health.

Ideas are a life and death thing. Through the ages people have died for ideas… people have clung to life with and for an idea.

So, when you think about them, without ideas… where would we be?

This tribute is like many ideas, a few thoughts brought together, but not fully formed

They say money makes the world go around? I disagree, and the evidence is everywhere to behold.

How to cook ideas in the furnace of craic! #82 #cong18


How to cook ideas in the furnace of craic!    Go mad having a bit of craic, and whoops … you just had a valuable idea!?

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Having fun is the best way to start something, because it’s ultimately more sustainable.
  2. Subconcsciously, while having fun, you’ll probably unlock some interesting ideas.
  3. Flow states start best with play.
  4. Don’t ponder too much on the why, unless you’re simply validating the ‘Play’ state

About Richard McCurry:

CEO of Newby Chinese, Drove to Mongolia, rescued a twin-exhaust, rocket powered wheelbarrow of a soviet sidecar from a freezing steppe. Would have a go at any language on the planet.  Never wrestled a bear!

Contacting Richard McCurry:

You can reach Richard by email.

By Richard McCurry

Why Good Ideas Die #81 #cong18


Ideas fail for lots of logical reasons but is there a more sinister reason.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Ideas sometime perish due to vested interests
  2. We need to look beyond personal gain to truly realise our potential
  3. Ideas can be circular in nature and good ones can bounce back
  4. Strong leadership and societal change needed

About Billy Kennedy:

Retired claims inspector and mechanic.  Proud father and grandfather.  Late adopter of technology and ever curious mind.

Contacting Billy Kennedy:

Apparently I am on lots of social media platforms courtesy of my family but probably best to email me.

By Billy Kennedy

Whilst reading the other submissions there are lots of common threads about why ideas don’t happen.  Some never left the dreaming phase and suffered due to lack of implementation which is the really hard part.  Some were bad ideas that probably suffered from mental blinkering or were ego led.  Some just suffered from bad timing – too early or too late. Some just did not have the resourcing or did not make economic sense.  Some lacked the leadership or will to make them happen. Some due to external macro forces or a sense of urgency and competed against the continually changing set of priorities.  The list goes on.

After a life time of watching from afar one reason that is deeply hidden in human psychie is the vested interests.  This thorny area is a field day for conspiracy theories but there is evidence of short minded vested interests that frequently are very powerful and can suppress even the best of ideas.  Even ideas that have manifested themselves in robust and seemingly good products.

One such one is the early electric car, which thankfully has now finally moved beyond the early attempts to quash it dominance.

This theme was explored in the 2006 documentary ‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ .  The Wikipedia link gives a full narrative about it and if you have time the YouTube link below is worth reading.

Here’s a short summary or this sort story.  In 1990 5,000 electric cars were designed by a collection of car manufacturers and leased to owners only to be eventually recalled and destroyed.  The rationale was that there was a lack of consumer interest but the more likely and documented reason was the fear of the oil companies and manufacturers about the implications to their business models.  Lots of groups from high ranking politicians were implicated and the testimony of the person who ran the leasing programme about the effectiveness of the car ran contrary to the public statement of the vested interests.

As human beings were are incredibly resourceful but equally destructive.  We welcome change and we equally fear it.  We can destroy ideas, concepts, policies and products because they can seem to threaten our existence.  The strongest motivation tends to be financial but we can tend to continue to embrace bad ideas because the new ones seem alien to us and we feel emotionally bound to something more familiar.  Left to individual interests we are frequently unwilling to bare the possible pain of something new that could have a much wider benefit to society.  Think politics down to local interests.

I am continually amazed to see the impact of strong leadership, political will and the ability to engender support for ideas that can bring people from the extremes back into more moderate views but also dismayed to see how we can be swayed into a train of thinking that is clearly not for the better good.

I do not doubt the human race’s ability to solve big problems with great ideas. Our engineering and creativity grows exponentially every day but the personal survival instinct is so strong that I see that we have a long way to go until we can fully embracing ideas that act in the betterment of all our lives and not just the few.  Maybe its time we exercise personal demons and look at new ideas from a higher shared goal perspective.  I would settle for even acknowledging them as a step forward.

On a different spectrum I have some thoughts on ideas that I personally was fascinated by that never really moved forward, despite their outer appearance of potential and I have never really found good reasons why not.  Included on my personal list are:

Early steam cars.  Over 40 years ago Bolands has a steam car – yes steam – that had no gear box and was powered by fire.  The carbide lamp that powered my fathers push bike light almost a century ago.  The hydrogen car (early ones were akin to a ticking bomb with later hydrogen blocks have more potential).  Micro hydro generators on rivers replacing defunct mills.

And finally we live in a cyclical world.  We tore up trams only to spend billions putting the lines back in.  My childhood memories are full of electric laundry trucks and milk delivery floats, only to be replaced by polluting equivalents and now the return back to electric.

I am conscious that complex factors were to play with many of my examples but I firmly believe that we need to evolve as a species to truly make the most of the ideas that our incredible race is able to produce.

On a more upbeat closing note here are some quirky ideas that never caught on.

Ideas are the true food for life, challenge them, embrace them, pursue them #80 #cong18


Ideas are the true food for life, challenge them, embrace them, pursue them.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Our ideas are like a piece of art, no one else may see what you see.
  2. Be grateful for every life experience, both positive and negative, as these experiences will give you the greatest depth of ideas.
  3. Every meaningful idea you explore will create new experiences which are all building blocks to every great idea which follows.
  4. Contentment with your ideas and what you have achieved is the biggest challenge of all.

About Brendan Reddin:

Substantial Commercial and Corporate Banking experience specifically working with large corporates and small SME’s who experienced financial difficulties. Roles involved carrying out in depth financial analysis of the aforementioned businesses and identifying and implementing strategic changes. Keen interest in the food, beverage and travel industry and experience all 3 as much as time allows. Co-Founder of a new drinks brand with a unique Irish aspect and actively working to grow same.

Contacting Brendan Reddin:

You can connect with Brendan on LinkedIn or send him an email.

By Brendan Reddin

What makes a good idea one might ask, is it good if it satisfies a specific genuine need, or can a good idea be equally as impactful if it captures your imagination and allows you to experience a moment of happiness, a moment of joy. Do all ideas need a tangible outcome, or could you argue that the best ideas bring happiness into the lives of people who are captured by the idea. The thought of an idea, implementation of said idea and the experience associated with such an idea are unique to each and every individual. Each and every one of us experience a completely unique journey through life, and it is the unique challenges we face that give us the greatest depth of idea and gives us the strength to pursue our ideas. Often the greater personal challenges one faces, the more resolve and commitment they can show to their ideas, and the prospect of failure although always present, becomes reduced in value as this fear is the lesser of the personal challenges they may have previously encountered.

There are many ideas I have had throughout my career, my travels and my life and I always believed that one wonderfully successful idea would bring me happiness and contentment, but now I don’t believe that to be so. I believe our ideas are a tapestry of our life, a collection of our interests and experiences, our interactions with others whether we deem them positively or negatively, it is a culmination of everything we have experienced up to and including our current being, our current selves, and each idea is pitched against said experiences and the reference points we have stored, both academically and socially. For an idea to be successful it needs to appeal in part to people who share our values, interests and beliefs, they need to understand our reasoning, our vision and our passion. Once they understand the aforementioned they will invariably join you on your journey and commend your determination to bring your idea to life. They will find joy in understanding the mechanics of your idea and the personal journey you have taken to make the idea a reality. However, for many people your idea may be supercilious, unnecessary and uninspiring, an idea that does not capture their attention or create an emotive response for them, but this should never reflect negatively on the idea you wish to express. It is an important lesson, that all people are different with different ideals and tastes, and believing that your idea will one day impress all who encounter it is the first true failing of ones idea. To be happy knowing that your idea will bring joy to many but not to all is the single best lesson to learn and to always be mindful of. Joy and contentment are derived from positive experiences and the joy of others. However, it is important to remember that negative experiences are always necessary to ensure we appreciate each and every positive experience with gratitude.

Contentment is the idea that one day in the far distant future we will have received sufficient personal and monetary gratification for the culmination of all our ideas, business and personal, but the idea of contentment is invariably the one which alludes us all. It is the continuous reach for happiness driven primarily by our ideas, ideas for more, for greater, for bigger, for grander, but it is these ideas we need to challenge daily and view with perspective. True contentment is the only idea we should evaluate daily, and to be content with the idea of our ideas, and what we have achieved to date, and what we will achieve in our futures.

Where do ideas come from and where do they go? #78 #cong18


Coming soon.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Coming soon

About Aileen Howell:

Aileen describes herself as a mum of 4, a dedicated Geek girl, a Breastfeeding Advocate, an Aspie & ADHD mum, and a Maker of Things.

Aileen was the founder and managing director of, Ireland’s first exclusively online maternity wear start-up. Before her start-up days, she was a software engineer working in the finance sector. These days she is a director with a uniform (school & industry) supplier and a full time La Leche League Leader – a voluntary position in the area of mother-to-mother breastfeeding support.

Contacting Aileen Howell:

You can follow Aileen on Twitter or send her an email.

By Aileen Howell

How does one go from having an idea to growing that idea? Having great ideas is no use if you lack the skills/drive/confidence or experience to develop it or to find someone else with the skills to do it for you. How many brilliant ideas are stillborn? Caught in the birth canal of someone incapable (in reality or in belief) of pushing it forward and into life? Is this a teachable skill or is it simply down to personality type?

How often have you heard someone say “I had a great idea” but then go on to tell you how they kept that idea hidden – afraid to share it in case someone “stole” it but unable or unwilling to develop it themselves. Many of those ideas (and to be fair probably most of them) are best kept hidden but how many gems are out there, secreted away for some unknown future time?

How many of us have seen a simple product in the shops or online and thought to ourselves – I wish I’d thought of that? How many more have seen the same and thought “I DID think of that – years ago but I was waiting for some magical future time when I would do something with the idea”. Having ideas is great, growing ideas is better.

Is the growth of maker spaces and community workshops like men’s sheds going to help create an environment where people can explore ideas for products without the outlay and commitment previously needed? How can we foster this willingness to delve into ideas in future generations?

I have had the privilege over the last number of years to be invited by our local secondary school to participate in a “Dragon’s Den” event they run for their Transition Year students. This is the launch of their mini-businesses. They work alone or in groups to come up with a business idea and then pitch it to the Dragons who then bid a small amount of money for a small stake in the company. Often the ideas are re-hashes of previous years businesses (and to be fair we do all look forward to the mini-company who are going to bake because they ALWAYS have few samples to pass around) but sometimes you see a spark of something that could be truly great. A few weeks later we are all invited back to their Christmas fair where the businesses are on display and products and services are ready to go. Frequently I’ll see a business that seemed so full of ideas and promise selling bags of sweets or something similar and equally uninspired. When you go and chat to them you find that they just couldn’t figure out how to go from having the idea to developing it.  If you ask them “Why didn’t you approach someone in the field to ask for guidance?” You’ll get told “We didn’t want them to steal our idea” and just like that you realise that, yet another idea has gone to that great idea boneyard.

How do we get to a place where people put those ideas out there – to grow and thrive or to die in the dust as their merit warrants. Is there a litmus test for ideas – how does one know if an idea is good? Can we get create an environment where people are willing to share their ideas and let them be taken on by those with the drive and ambition to see them through? An ideas repository if you will – like a sperm bank of projects – patiently waiting for the right egg to come along.

Idea or Execution #79 #cong18


Coming soon.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. Coming soon

About Stephen Howell:

Stephen Howell is the Academic Program Manager for Microsoft Ireland. Stephen is a passionate advocate of CoderDojo and Computational Thinking both in and outside the classroom. He developed Kinect 2 Scratch and is a PhD candidate in SMARTLab, UCD on Computational Thinking education with kinaesthetic learning. Before joining Microsoft he was a software engineer and Computing lecturer on software development education and games based learning. He is dad of 4, a dedicated geek, an Aspie & ADHD dad, and a Breaker of Things.

Contacting Stephen Howell:

You can follow Stephen on Twitter or send him an email.

By Stephen Howell

I help host and organise student hackathons, events where groups work in teams to build and present something new in a day, or weekend. Once the domain of engineers and computer scientists, increasingly hackathons are open to students of all disciplines. Teams have become a blend of engineering, business, and arts majors. Generally, this is a good thing. Students should be exposed to ‘other’ disciplines and learn the value of different skills and working with people they aren’t already friends with.

The hardest part of hosting a hackathon is when the group doesn’t work. The student who can code offers to build the entry. The artistic student is sketching the UI. The marketing student is ready to polish up a presentation on the finished work. And then there’s the student, who could be of any discipline, who thinks they won’t need to actually doanything – they are the ‘ideas’ person.

Ideas in a hackathon are rarely the deciding factor in a successful entry. The learning process of building, presenting, and striving to finish in a constrained time are key. Students who think that what they have to offer is idea generation, and not implementation or illumination, are often disappointed when they realise that their contribution was quite small to the team’s overall success.

Hackathons can be a muddy reflection of a real start-up; the start-up I was most closely involved with had the ‘idea’ coalesce over a pregnancy, but the hard work and success took much longer than 9 months. The idea was so simple it could be summarised in a sentence, the creation of a successful company to implement it, a hefty tome.

The same bias as to the value of an ‘idea’ to a successful hackathon or start-up is evident when speaking to judges and investors. Those of an engineering background critique implementation. The business folk are excited by the idea, even if the implementation is incomplete, non-existent or occasionally, against the laws of known physics. This is not to say that ideas have no value, but to highlight the angles at which differently experienced folk look at the same idea & implementation.

The most humbling aspect of reflecting on one’s own history of ideas must not be the good ideas you had and how you executed them, but what other people did with them. History abounds with accidental inventions that the creator ignored because it wasn’t what they had set out to do, only for someone else to recognise the value of their idea, albeit for a different purpose. While I haven’t had any world changing ideas yet, a similar experience for me was publishing some software, for free, for teaching kids how to code by making games you could play using your body. At least, that’s what I thought it would be used for. Instead, medical researchers in Taiwan used the software to treat children with cerebral palsy by turning their boring exercise regime into a stretching game. Chinese special needs assistants used the software to teach autistic children how to safely cross the road. An Italian retirement home made simple games for the residents that they could play from their armchairs. I didn’t have any of those great ideas, but I enabled them by creating the software. My one small idea implemented adequately allowed diverse and fascinating ideas to grow, even though they weren’t in my discipline or previous experience. Perhaps executing well on one small idea, and becoming a platform for bigger and stranger ideas, is enough for this engineer.