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


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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 bumpbasics.com, 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.

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