Someone recently asked me “how do you come up with all your ideas?” And I very quickly responded that I had no idea. Ideas just came to me. I’d be thinking about a product or service — some problem that needed to be solved, and a notion just came to me. Some random thought that sparked my interest. Something that I thought would be fun, or funny, or sad, or something. You know, got some form of a response.
But then I realized that wasn’t how I came up with ideas at all.
Most times, yes, some interesting thought will pop into my mind. But that’s just the beginning. The next step is all the work that goes into making that thought special. I call it “what if …” As in, “what if we did the entire thing backwards?” or “what if we didn’t do that at all, but did this and then did that?” I realize I spend hours and hours every day saying “what if?”
I was just reading a quote from John Lassiter from Pixar talking about Steve Jobs. According to him, the beginning of the iPhone was a simple “what if” from Steve Jobs. He says that one day Steve said “you know, everyone I know has a cell phone, but everyone hate them. What if we created a phone that people would love?” Then when creating functionality for the iPod started as “what if you could hold 1,000 songs in your pocket?” Of course, later he added “what if you could have all your music, all your photos, your favorite videos and your web browser in your pocket?”
What if can be pretty powerful.
So let’s think about the most pressing issues of our day — our government grid lock. I recently posed this question to a group of co-workers. “What if we elected our government officials for one 8-year term with no option for re-election?” My thought was that without the worry of being re-elected, government officials could hopefully only worry about doing that right thing for the people the represent. We wouldn’t have ‘life time’ government officials. It would also make voting much more important — hey, if we’re going to be stuck with someone for 8 years, we better be pretty sure.
Think about what you’re doing? What you’re working on? No matter what your occupation, you can dig a little deeper by asking a good “what if” question from time to time.