Spencer Greenberg on generating ideas with counterfactual impact

“If you can’t systematize creativity, you’re just not being creative enough.”

Related: The Mendel Lag

How to generate valuable ideas that others won’t come up with?

Spencer Greenberg shared some ideas in our interview:

“If an idea is possible, discoverable, smart and big, then almost certainly someone has come up with that idea. […]

So how do you come up with ideas that other people haven’t? It’s simple – you just make them impossible, undiscoverable, stupid or tiny.”

Finally, a practical solution.

Fortunately, Spencer has a framework for each of these type of ideas:

  1. Impossible. What ideas were impossible until now? E.g. does a new technology enable previously impossible things? (Ed Boyden uses a similar prompt to come up with new inventions).
  2. Undiscoverable. If you understand thing two things, each of which only 1 in 80,000 people in the world understand and the things are not related, then congratulations! You might be the only person in the world.
  3. Stupid. Related to Peter Thiel’s idea of looking for secrets. What makes sense under your world model that doesn’t make sense to others? For example, the idea of having random people on the Internet decide what’s true about any given topic seems really stupid. Yet Wikipedia works. You have to understand how crowdsourcing and communities work to see the opportunity.
  4. Tiny. Essentially an application of the Lean Startup framework. Look for problems around you without existing solutions. Once you develop a solution, look for adjacent opportunities to scale. My favorite example: Jeff Bezos starting with rare or obscure books.

The full interview is here and on YouTube

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