Every startup begins with an idea. Google started with the idea that the hyperlinks between web pages are similar to citations between academic papers, and can be ranked the same way. LinkedIn started with the idea that the best way for professionals to find other professionals on the Internet was through a network of people they trust. DropBox started with the idea that there had to be a better way to share files across computers than carrying around a USB memory stick.
When I was getting ready to write this book, I asked a number of friends what startup topics they wanted to know more about. One of the most common questions I got was, “How do entrepreneurs come up with brilliant startup ideas?” Many people think of Steve Jobs, Reid Hoffman, Henry Ford, and Larry Page as possessing a creativity superpower. And like most superpowers, they see creativity as a binary property: either you have it, or you don’t.
In this chapter, I hope to convince you that creativity is a skill that can be learned. Like any skill, some people will be better at it than others, but just about anyone can come up with good ideas. To see how, in the first half of this chapter, I’ll explore where ideas come from. In the second half of the chapter, I’ll describe how to validate that an idea is worth turning into a product.
One of the biggest misconceptions about ideas is that they spontaneously pop into your mind, fully formed, as if from thin air. When you ...