How Do You Find Good Ideas?

I had the pleasure last week of meeting Niel Robertson, CTO of Newmerix, contributor to Enterprise Irregulars, and overall an expansive and deep thinker. About a year ago he penned an immortal article dissecting Oracle’s "Fusion" announcement (Fusion is the solution to integrating all of its acquisitions).

Somewhere in our conversation Niel said, "The question I get from people more than any other is, ‘How do you find good ideas?‘ My answer? I let people tell me what the good ideas are."

I love it. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to come up with new ideas, focus instead on listening and synthesis. I don’t think this is easy.

Outstanding listeners ask open not closed questions, probe on adjectives ("what do you mean when you say ‘hurt’?"), and are not afraid of silence.

Synthesis requires, to use Niel’s words, thinking about markets or the world like a pointillist painting: you will accumulate little dots in the form of scattered opinions and anecdotes and you have to see the larger picture and trend over time.

How do you let people tell you what the good ideas are?

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