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Stanford GSB alumni entrepreneurs shed light on how they come up with their best ideas.
We asked eight innovative Stanford GSB alumni entrepreneurs including Kiva’s Jessica Jackley (MBA ’07) and Design Within Reach’s Rob Forbes (MBA ’85) to shed light on how they come up with their best ideas. From collaborating with others to observing consumer behavior to taking naps, read tips for boosting your creativity:
1. INTERRUPT THE LOGICAL MIND AND ALLOW SPACE TO DAYDREAM
“ What inspires me is beauty and the human desire and capacity to create it. I listen to Glenn Gould’s piano pieces or other acoustic music in the morning. My best ideas come randomly. I take naps and steam baths. You need to interrupt the logical mind and allow space to daydream.
“ Einstein said the theory of relativity came to him when he was riding a bike. The best ideas will not come from slamming three espressos and grinding them out, but rather at weird moments: in the middle of the night, when you are traveling on a train, when you are receptive to oblique inspiration and the suspension of disbelief. Zen teachers refer to this as ‘the beginner’s mind, where possibilities are many.’ We are all too finely tuned. Our mind uses us more than we use our mind.” — Rob Forbes (MBA ’85), Founder of Design Within Reach and PUBLIC Bikes
2. LISTEN AND REFLECT
“ Every real insight I’ve had has come from being a good listener. I need to have time for quiet reflection to digest it and consider how it affects me, to figure out my voice and how I can contribute to that story.” — Jessica Jackley (MBA ’07), Co-founder of Kiva
3. EXPAND THE “ADJACENT POSSIBLE”
“ I have worked in so many different industries and niches: big companies, small companies, government, for-profit, not-for-profit, etc. For me, it is about expanding the adjacent possible. Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From, explains that the world is full of many possibilities, but only certain things can happen. Only by opening doors to new opportunities — a new adjacent possible — can you create what I call a palace of possibilities. I have more doors open — a larger palace of possibilities — than most people, so I can see connections others may not see. My best ideas come from this collage of experiences.” — Denise Brosseau (MBA ’93), CEO of Thought Leadership Lab
4. DON’T SEEK OUT GREAT IDEAS
“Great ideas find you. I don’t think you find great ideas. As a venture capitalist, you don’t come up with ideas. The entrepreneurs come up with the ideas. It is a lot harder to be an entrepreneur than to be a venture capitalist. And the great ideas that lead to great businesses generally find the entrepreneur, not the other way around. The ones where the entrepreneur is looking for the idea tend to result in flips. Look at Microsoft, eBay, Dropbox, Airbnb. None of those guys was looking to start a business. The ideas just hit them. The great ones just know.” — Lecturer Andy Rachleff (MBA ’84), Co-founder of Wealthfront Inc.
5.COLLABORATE WITH OTHERS
“ I come up with my best ideas by engaging and talking with other people. Great ideas are not solitary things. Feedback from other people is the best catalyst.” — Trae Vassallo (MBA ’00), Strategic Advisor at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
6 . SPEND TIME AWAY FROM YOUR INDUSTRY
“ I get my best ideas when I get off the grid and detach myself from my industry. Spending time thinking about fashion, toys, or architecture frees me up to think imaginatively. It’s hard to be innovative when you are stuck in your own industry. You see artificial boundaries around what you can and can’t do.” — Laura Ching (MBA ’00), Co-founder of Tiny Prints
7 . OBSERVE CONSUMER BEHAVIOR AND CULTURE
“ I enjoy observing consumer behavior and culture. I like to envision what could be, and I ask myself, Why isn’t this better? How could it be better? I start to play out that scenario in my head. The best ideas come out of pain points I experience in my daily life and based on what I learned of gaps in financial services at Progreso. I am already working on my next company.” — James Gutierrez (MBA ’05), Founder of Progreso Financiero
8. FREE UP YOUR MIND
“ For some reason more ideas come to me when I am near water — even taking a bath. I just did a weeklong meditation retreat. Freeing up the mind is a good way to get to inspiration. We fill our lives with so little space. Inspiration looks for crevices to parachute into. The fewer crevices you create in your life, the less likely you are to have inspiration come through you. You need to allow yourself to be a vessel so that something can come through you.” — Chip Conley (MBA ’84), Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels
*Article written by Natalie White