Where Do Ideas Come From?

As I wrote last week after speaking at MDRT in Boston, what makes the MDRT conferences so special is that everyone wants to be there, enough that they purchase their registration, buy their own plane tickets, and pay for their own meals and accommodations.

Everyone who is there is on. There are no passengers.

Not surprisingly, the audience hung around and asked a lot of questions about the Experience Economy, and how they could apply its principles to their own financial business.

I loved it, and I will say I did good work in these scrums. I took each questioner back through the frameworks I had shared, walking them through the process of shifting beyond selling goods and services to staging experiences.

Then they’d ask, “Where do your ideas come from?” The short answer is, my brain, but I actually started to jot down some answers to this question, thinking it might make for a good blog.

Dennis’ ideas …

  1. Rarely come from watching television or distracting myself on the Internet. I regard TV and casual surfing for what they are: entertainment.
  2. Come from blogging. Everyone should blog because it forces you to think about your subject all the time, and you can’t be casual about it. Nobody has to read them for you to get the benefit of writing them.
  3. Come while walking my dog and listening to podcasts and Ted Talks on my headphones. Nearly every night that I’m home, I walk my dog for an hour and I listen to smart people telling me smart things. Try it tonight for yourself. Take a walk and listen.
  4. Come from reading a book or an article.
  5. Most often come from some of my bad ideas, but only if I have had enough bad ideas. I rarely have the good idea first; my ideas are usually ‘almost there.’
  6. Hate the status quo, so my ideas never come from efforts trying to protect the status quo or avoiding change. If you work for a big company that sells goods and services, you probably haven’t seen a good idea in years. If enough people point that out, they get fired.
  7. Come in bunches. When this happens, I let it ride.
  8. Are best when they are generous and selfless.
  9. Come from being quiet in nature. I have a lot of ideas driving to and from Mt. Tremblant to go skiing. I have a lot of great ideas when I’m at my cabin being quiet.
  10. Show up when I’m awake and alert, rarely when I’m sleepy, foggy or distracted. This is why getting rest is so important. When I am rested, I’m Alex Trebek, but when I’m tired I’m Chuck Woolery.

As a final thought, let me say that my ideas are rarely brilliant or amazing. They are just average, sometimes even pretty good. What pushes them over the top is execution. A great idea is really just a good idea that is well executed.

Thanks for reading.


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