Geneva Swanson

You Can’t Pluck Great Ideas Out of Thin Air

Wouldn’t it be great to all of a sudden have an idea for the next best social media platform? Yeah wouldn’t we all love to have that brain.

Most entrepreneurs and business leaders don’t just think of a perfect idea out of nowhere and make it happen. Most products and startups are developed and change over time. They are nurtured, evolve and take the needs of an audience into account.

So: You can’t pluck great ideas out of thin air. (I wish though)

*At least most people can’t and if you can that’s a super power and you should join the Avengers

This article by Paul Graham is a great breakdown of how to begin the startup idea process. First, don’t think about a solution think about the PROBLEM.

what is the problem

You go through life every day finding problems driving to work, ordering food, finding a place to ice skate, so on and so forth.

So, think about a specific problem you encounter every day like say getting from one place to another. Before Uber people were frustrated that you had to call a taxi service ~ oh wait then Uber came to be and everyone was so happy there was an easy app to get from one place to another while being able to track the driver’s movement and pay on the app.

This SOLVED a PROBLEM, therefore you have an automatic audience, which would be people with that same problem.

Don’t fall into the category of “infomercial products” that just think up the most random products and then they end up having to find an audience and sell the idea that this random product can fix a problem you never even thought you had.

I mean really, who needs a tiddy bear?… (Don’t know what a tiddy bear is? It’s a bear looking thing that attaches to your seat belt so it’s more comfortable. Yes, it’s a real thing – refer to obnoxious image below).


So, to be more specific first you must think of a problem people encounter in everyday life or a problem society in general has. Then think of a solution, something practical that could fix that problem. Lastly, think of a product that could incorporate the solution into something people could use like an app, an object or online platform.

If you can, be specific, so you probably can’t find a solution to world hunger with an app. Facebook didn’t start out as an all-encompassing worldwide interactive social media platform. It started out being a ‘hot or not’ list for Harvard students. The founders knew there was going to be an audience and knew certain people would use it. From there it grew into the giant it is today.

My advice would be to not overthink it, don’t try to solve every horrible huge problem in the world. Find a problem you understand, are passionate about, effects certain people directly and is specific.

Also, just because there’s already a market for something doesn’t mean you can’t make it better. Journalism and the distribution of news was an already established market with hundreds of publications yet Buzzfeed found their niche within the market and targeted a certain demographic – look at them now. Buzzfeed was extremely successful in a way where they knew who their audience was already going to be and tailored to that exact audience, millennials who are all about the online.

From the brilliant mind of Paul Graham: Don’t “think up” ideas “notice” them.



One thought on “You Can’t Pluck Great Ideas Out of Thin Air

  1. Hi Geneva,

    First off, I loved your pictures that were used to go along with your blog post. Your writing is personal and your sense of character is easy to pin point. Referring back to the Tiddy bear, I wonder what problem was solved with that one…

    I especially liked how you chose to end the blog- a call to action for the reader, or in this case the innovator, to go and do something.


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