Idea helpers: ways to grow ideas

The happier twin brother of idea killers are idea growers. Things you can say in response to ideas to help them grow.

Unlike idea killers, these statements act as idea fertilizer, helping them to grow, find homes, make friends, and grow from ideas into solutions. Instead of ending conversations, they always provide a path for the idea to move forward, grow, or be the seed for other ideas.

(Thanks to Jennie Zehmer for suggesting this)

Idea starters

  • What do you need to make this work?
  • How can we explore this idea to understand it better?
  • Who else has done this before? What can we learn from them?
  • Whose support do you need?
  • How much time will it take to flesh this out?
  • Drop what you’re doing and focus on this.
  • Talk to Fred, our smartest guy, and see what he thinks.
  • What can you add to this to make it better?
  • What should change to help make this happen?
  • Lets run with this and see where it goes.
  • What can we cut to make room for this?
  • What’s the next step?
  • Here’s a blank check and the corner office.

Can you name others you’ve heard or said?

17 Responses to “Idea helpers: ways to grow ideas”

  1. Greg

    Talk to Fred, our second smartest guy, and see what he thinks.

  2. Scott (admin)

    Or how about talk to Sally, our most creative person, and come up with a plan.

  3. James Bullock

    “OK, our mission right now is X. You’re here because you’re smarter than I am about how we might do that. Come talk to me when you want me to help you some way.”

    “Astonish me.”

    “If I knew how to do all of it, I wouldn’t have hired you. So, what are you thinking?”

    “Really? So, what’s stopping you from going after this?” “OK. I’ll take that on. Suppose you could now what>”

    “Really? So, what’s stopping you from going after this?” “OK, that impediment sounds like your first problem.”

    One caveat about promoting the impediment of the moment to be the new problem – you can run right into some interesting realities. At one job we had “The Formal Impediment Group” – a CM roganization run amok, valuing a-priori repeatability over all progress. The head-impediment-in-charge of course got his smiling face on all progress, simply by preventing any progress that he couldn’t get his face on. We called him “Drano” in a pun on his name, but also in hopes that he might get flushed.

    Having identified the problem, and my boss having noted that this particular problem was a constraint rather than something we could solve . . I set out to solve it.

    Week after week I reported my progress in securing a “hit” on Mr. Drano, through specifiying the services, soliciting bids, vetting the vendors, and so on, backed by the appropriate *actual paperwork*, of course. In addition, we – my team – pushed the appropriate technical paperwork to have Mr. Drano “deleted” from the system, a S/ICNR, pronounced “snicker”, for Specification / Interface Change Request Notice (which name alone will give you some idea what we were up against.) On occasion we would burst into spontaneous song, singing “Kill the Drain-o, Kill the Drain-o . . . ” is faux-Elmer Fudd reminiscent of the hilarious cartoon of him and Buggs doing opera. With what? “With my magic snick-er, magic snick-er . . . ”

    Once you get people in a problem solving frame of mind, they might well identify the actual problem and try to solve it. So, don’t do that unless you are ready. Allow people to really think about what is going on and you may find yourself in the middle of MASH – the movie.

    Creativity, once unleashed, doesn’t tend to stay inside the lines.

  4. Timothy Johnson

    Trying the simple improv comedy technique of “yes, and…” works well to encourage further discussion about an idea. If you really want to innovate, keep the ideas flowing to build on the divergent thinking. Great posts, Scott.

  5. Carlos Torres

    Sweeeeeeetttt *grin*, we have a development environment that mimics the production stuff you want to touch… I’ll send you the db schema and set you up with an account on the box…cvs, db, etc… Go Nuts…let me know when a prototype is ready and if you need an extra set of hands typing away, when we have a prototype ready we’ll setup a meeting to pitch it! *grin*

  6. Philip Bralich

    This is great and very helpful. However, where are the solutions? I have a patent on some very useful software that has been ignored based largely on an excuse you haven’t mentioned, “the not-invented-here syndrowm.” I would love to find a forum to show my work (without huge fees) to serious investigators who are open to new ideas. Anything out there?

    Phil Bralich

  7. wael

    what hold you to start

    if you got any problem doing it i will support you

    how can i help

    if you need any assistant to start just bring me on


    thats what i am talking about


    thats why i choose you

    that is what i said about you

  8. Renee Solomon

    Unfortunately, I’ve never heard any of these at work. There’s always a reason to NOT change.

  9. Nikhil kaushik

    i have a great idea but i need a idea helper



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