Ever wondered how we’re able to think of something that doesn’t even exist yet? Our imagination spawns all sorts of ideas of what could be. Ideation then is the process of generating, developing, and communicating such ideas. It’s one thing to have a smart idea. It’s another thing to make it work and get the best out of it. Down below you find some directions to get you started.

Look around

We all like to believe our findings are completely unique. Still we better look around what others already did. Even Newton said he was just standing on the shoulders of giants. If you really want to reinvent the wheel, you may as well go live in a cave and reinvent your own fire first. Rather not? Then learn from others. Continue working where they left off. Anyone tried something similar? Did that work? How does your idea make a difference?

Ask around

Van Gogh’s paintings are famous now, but sadly enough as long as he lived no one really appreciated his efforts. Most of us rather receive appreciation while still alive, possibly in a form that allows us to pay our bills. Then it may be wise to gauge people’s reactions. Ask people that dare to give you real feedback. Avoid people that only give you nice answers. This does not mean you should give in to whatever people are saying. There are enough great ideas that had to make their ways through discouraging feedback and critical reception. Asking around just gives you an impression of what to expect.

Take your time

New ideas are exciting. Use that excitement to elaborate them. Then let it rest for some time. Excitement is good to make miles, but taking a break allows you to look back at your work more objectively. It tests whether an idea is more than just a fleeting thought. It prevents tunnel vision and gives new inspiration. It helps you to overcome hindrances and disappointment. Taking your time does not mean to procrastinate. Nor does it mean to give up easily. Many ideas simply need time to mature. And taking time to make solid plans first, doesn’t cost nearly as much as having to patch up defective plans later.

Find the essence

Rembrandt’s masterpieces all started with a few essential lines. First he made sure those lines ran exactly where wanted them. Only after that he started filling in details. You may already have a detailed picture of what you want. Well then it’s good to strip down your idea to the core. What is the bare essence? Which elements are strictly necessary? Make sure these essentials work exactly how you want them. Then you can start filling in details. But keep it simple. Simplicity keeps your idea feasible and solid and flexible.

Dare to choose

Sometimes we fear to miss opportunities, so we keep all options open. But indecisiveness brings confusion and delay. In order to sculpt his figures, Michelangelo had to cut away more and more stone. And with every cut he dismissed other options. In order to shape your idea, you’ll have to make make clear choices. And with every choice you’ll dismiss other options. That’s how you shape your idea. Document how and why you made your choices. If an idea is to serve multiple goals, consider breaking it down into multiple ideas. It is easier to cope with several simpler ideas than with one complicated monster idea. Start with the most promising idea and save the rest for later.

Document your idea

At some point you’ll have to communicate your idea, so you can’t avoid to document them in some understandable format. But documenting ideas has more benefits. Leonardo da Vinci did not draw his sketches for us to enjoy. He did that for himself. Because documenting our thoughts helps us to sharpen and settle those thoughts. Your idea becomes more tangible. And that often seems to evoke even more inspiration. So you better start writing, typing, sketching, talking, recording, whatever works best for you!

Handle your ambitions

It makes perfect sense if your ambition is to build something great. But then it’s wise to decide beforehand how much you may invest to fulfill that ambition. Otherwise your ambition is bound to become a bottomless well. A budget dictating your ambition feels restrictive, but that’s not necessarily bad. Because a budget requires you to prioritize. It urges for creative solutions. But more importantly, it confronts you with a fundamental question. How much is your idea really worth to you? How much would you give for it? In other words, do you really believe in your idea?

Ditch your pride

Even a famous artisan like Rembrandt knew he needed help of others. He relied on several assistants with their own skills and specialties. So listen to others. Let them question your idea. Annoying suggestions are often annoying because we did not think of them ourselves. Annoying questions are often annoying because they might reveal shortcomings. But those suggestions and questions can take your concept to a higher level. Stubbornness keeps us working on poor concepts. It hinders us from sharpening our ideas. So step over your pride and create something to be really proud of!

And finally…

These directions are just to get you started. Developing and documenting an idea often turns out to be easier said than done. You may need some help there. After developing and documenting your idea, it’s time to translate everything into well-defined software specifications. That’s where you need someone that understands your ideas and also speaks the language of programmers. And then of course you want to see your idea come alive. These are things I can help you with. I look forward to hear from you!