There is no point in coming up with a new idea for a business, medicine or drug, service, or other company if it is not both unique and meaningful.  To be unique means to be at least a little different than your competitors, for better or for worse.  To be meaningful means to have a function or purpose that some identifiable subset of people will benefit from.  It is easy to think of meaningful ideas that other people have already thought of, likewise, it is pretty simple to think of unique ideas, but most are wildly impractical.  So the idea process happens best either by thinking of a practical idea, then expanding out to how it could become a unique idea, or to do the opposite, thinking of completely unique idea and looking for a way to make it practical. The graph below shows three points, one that is very unique and not meaningful, one that is the opposite, and one that is both.  The optimal idea on this chart is fairly unique and even more meaningful, which would be the ideal combination, as the practicality and meaningfulness of an idea is obviously a bit more important than its complete uniqueness. 

Idea Graph     The best ideas are obviously both unique and meaningful, so what are some ways to come up with ideas that fit both of these criteria.  The easiest way is to catalyze your creativity, preferably in a group or with a partner, with different stimuli.  It takes a very rare and special person to be able to sit down with a pad of paper and come up with any decent idea.  Potentially more efficient ways to do this could be googling changing trends in society and reading about what is happening and what problems, markets, or possibilities will be destroyed and created by these changes.  A simpler, more fun, but probably less practicle way to stimulate your brain to create new ideas is be word association.  By writing down all the thoughts that follow from a buzzword or even ordinary word, within the context of a certain field can be very useful.  An example I have done is to think about how to build a new type of playground, and use frogs as a word to think about.  Ideas quickly start to pop up about different jumping playground equipment thoughts, slippery slides like a frog skin, lilly pad jumps, etc.  This example may seem a little out there, and is clearly not practically useful, but it illustrates how the thought process can follow from basic and even random stimuli.  


This is a framework I have been taught and am appreciative that I got this training.  It has helped me come up with many ideas, even if I have rarely decided to take the initiative to act on them.  Happy idea hunting!