You might think you don’t have a creative bone in your body. But you’d be wrong. Most of us come up with novel ideas at one time or another. They may be big or small, good or bad, doable or not so doable. If you have to solve an unusual problem or fill an unexpected and urgent need, you’ll likely come up with something that will do the trick. That’s what humans are built to do.

But what about game-changing ideas? What about ideas that improve your life or the lives of others? What about truly original, outside-the-box ones that only you or your team could have conjured up? That’s where Your Next Big Idea by Samuel Sanders comes in. 

Sanders takes you through the idea generation process from fleeting thought to concrete product, service or system. He also provides exercises to train your brain so that you not only get faster and better at generating ideas but also come up with innovative ones that are useful, feasible, and in the case of business, marketable.

THE ROUTE FROM PROBLEM TO IDEA

It all starts with a problem, a want or a need. Sanders gives you tips and training on identifying these all around you and in everyday conversations with other people. Coming up with ideas is easy once you see a problem, want or need. Coming up with effective, feasible solutions, though, requires more thought.

You’ll need to analyze the situation, asking the right questions to gather relevant information and dig deep into root causes and circumstances. And once you think you understand, you’ll need to question your own assumptions, beliefs and prejudices. This can be the most difficult part of the process, but Sanders provides many tools to help you identify and “erase stigmas,” as he calls it.

Like many books on the topic, he provides a number of ways to tackle ideation, including the old standbys brainstorming and mind-mapping, but he also introduces some lesser-known methods, such as combining random solutions. The goal is to increase the volume of ideas, which improves the chances of striking on a truly big one. But even a big idea is just an idea until you’re sure it’s a good one, and for that, you’ll need to do a feasibility check.

VETTING AND REFINING THE SOLUTION AND MAKING A PLAN

This will send you back into research mode. You’ll need to weigh how passionate you are about the solution, and what resources are available to bring it to fruition. And, in the case of business, you’ll need to examine whether there’s a market for your solution and whether or not that market is ready to understand, accept and champion your solution.

Even when that work is done, there are many refinements that can be made by sharing your solution with others — even strangers — so that you can get different perspectives and suggestions and learn about potential pitfalls. Once you’re sure you have the best solution in hand, Sanders gives you tips on how to create a plan to turn your idea into reality.

Sanders points out that the process of innovation isn’t linear — you may find yourself going back to earlier steps to solve problems associated with your solution, or even start over from scratch. And that’s okay; it’s all part of the process to get you to a truly game-changing idea, and nothing you learn along the way is ever wasted. Sanders even provides a handy decision map to guide you through the book’s contents at every stage you are in.

INNOVATING FOR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL GAIN

All along this path are exercises you can do, whether as an individual or as a group, to hone your thinking skills and build your creative muscle. One of the unique features of this book, though, is that it’s not just focused on entrepreneurship or business innovation. It has a lot to offer by way of improving your personal life. The very same methods can help you:

  • identify what you want and what’s holding you back
  • understand which obstacles are actually stigmas and erase them
  • create solutions you’re excited about that are doable given your resources
  • find ways to share your solutions with others to gain additional insight
  • come up with a plan of action that will keep you motivated

Your Next Big Idea is an easy-to-understand workbook and guide that’s a quick read, but don’t let that fool you. It’s also a roadmap for the long route to mastery, both in business and in life.

Buy this book!

Samuel Sanders has seen how the idea process works in many different kinds of companies throughout his career. He has launched multiple startups both as part of a team and by himself, including being a co-founder of Wundershirt, which at its peak sold athletic training clothing to Olympic athletes. He has worked in R&D in a small team at an enterprise that was part of the Inc. 5,000 fastest growing companies. He has also worked in business development for a large company on Fortune‘s Future 50 and Fortune 500 list. This diversity of experience has allowed him to have a unique perspective on the idea process and discover angles that most people do not get exposed to. When Sanders is not at work, you can probably find him at an amusement park, playing board games or drinking coffee at a local coffee shop.