Ideas spring up in my mind when I’m working on something or even when I’m simply going through my daily activities. You probably experience the same. Maybe a frustrating outcome sparked an idea, or you came across an interesting app that made you think of a missing feature that could improve it.
These things happen to me all the time. And you know what I do? I write them all down in my little black book.
Whether they’re good or bad, all my ideas go in this book because I don’t want to forget or lose them. What might seem unimportant at the moment can turn out to be the best idea you’ve ever had some time in the future. You’ll never really know until you flesh it out, right? So, I think it’s best to write all ideas down.
All ideas go through different stages. Now, the first stage is what I call the infancy stage, which is basically the start of something. The second stage is when this idea is a little bit further down the runway, so it’s hashed out. By this time, you’re thinking of how to develop your idea fully.
Finally, the last stage is the maturity phase. At this point, you already know how to apply your idea, bring it to fruition, and turn it into an actual product.
Well, wouldn’t it be great if it was that simple to develop all our ideas from infancy to maturity stage? Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Many times, I’ll come up with an idea and think it would work great. But it’s tough to get it to the maturity stage, even if I know exactly what the idea is and how to get there.
In this case, what I do is think of effective ways to develop the idea, and I ask myself a few critical questions. Let’s say I have an idea that has something to do with software because I’m usually online for many hours daily and I see lots of interesting programs here and there.
The first question I ask myself is, “Is there an existing software that can do something similar to my idea?” What I’m looking for is a starting point where I can visualize my idea and see where it could possibly take me.
So, maybe someone has already built something that implements my idea, and my goal is to repurpose that into something better.
The second question I ask then is “Can I use an open-source software that’s similar to my idea?” You might ask, what’s open- source software? To put it simply, this type of software has a source code that’s available to everyone. Basically, anybody can inspect, modify, improve, and distribute the source code.
A good example is WordPress, which is actually a spinoff of another software. Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress, found the blogging industry was using this piece of software, and he wanted to build his own, better version. And that’s how WordPress was successfully created. WordPress has now become one of the most popular content management systems for hosting and building websites worldwide, powering nearly half of all websites on the internet.
Software like WordPress is easy to find on GitHub, which is a well-known platform for code sharing and collaboration. Programmers from all parts of the world work together to develop software projects on GitHub.
If I go to this popular software development platform, I’ll find numerous software that I could potentially improve. What I’m looking for is a software repository, which is basically a storage location where I can access software packages, including source code.
Okay, here’s what happens. If I want to take the source code from WordPress, I will “fork” a software and copy everything in WordPress and download it to my computer. Forking means taking a legal copy of a source code from a software package for the purpose of starting an independent development and creating a new software out of it.
I want to develop my own software based on existing open- source software. After downloading all the WordPress files, I can actually start developing and changing them as I want. I can modify it and even rebrand it and put my own name on it, depending on its license.
You are looking for a free, open-source software. It gives you a starting point to build something and actually start working on your idea.
However, sometimes you’ll find an ideal software that represents your idea but it’s not open source. In that case, you can just do a quick Google search and type “open source” plus the name of that software to find alternatives. You’ll find dozens of them out there. As I said earlier, simply download the source code and change it as long as the open-source license allows for modifications.
How about if you’re starting from scratch and you spend months, if not years, developing your idea just to reach the same level as your competitors? Well, I have this amazing process that I call the “leapfrog technique.” I’ve been using this technique for a long time, and it works wonders.
Imagine you come up with an exciting idea for a new product, and your starting point is actually the same level as your competitors, but you’re not just rising to their level; you’re leaping over them and improving what they already have.
So, how do you become better than your competitors right out the gate? The key thing to remember is to do a thorough competitive research, so you can discover the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and excel where they can’t.
Think about the product of a competitor. What are they mainly lacking? How can you make their product better? Are there solutions you can offer that they’re not already providing? That’s how you approach your idea creation process with this leapfrog technique.
Think about the unique advantages of your idea when you’re trying to improve existing open-source software.
Identify what makes your new program stand out and why people would rather use your software than the products of competitors. You can’t simply use lower prices or better customer service as a competitive advantage. As I said earlier, you need to pinpoint the weaknesses of competitors—what’s the missing ingredient? When you find your answer, you can then truly create an outstanding product and gain an edge over competitors.
That’s how it works—from a simple idea that probably popped up in your head while scrolling through your phone to downloading a source code from open-source software and modifying it into a much better version, you can turn your idea into a booming success.
So, always carry a little notebook with you to jot down any idea you have. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s bad or it doesn’t really make sense at the moment; just write it all down. Seriously, the vast majority of ideas I have in my little black book are horrible.
But every now and then, I browse through my book and discover a hidden gem—a raw, unpolished diamond that turns out to be an incredibly valuable idea. That happens. You come back to those old ideas and rethink them. A lot of times, you’ll think differently because of new knowledge, and you’ll realize how amazing those ideas can be after all.
And when you start fleshing out your idea and thinking of ways to develop it, just remember the tips I shared in this article to successfully bring it to full fruition.