Hey… ideas are free. So can I Paypal you a $100 for yours?

I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Ideas are cheap (or free).

I disagree. I will pay for your ideas.

Let's take a step back. I run a Startup (err… Business! :) Ideas site with a closed circle of friends and partners. We’ve collected over 200+ ideas of different businesses there.

Hence, doing this for 5+ years I now have my own template of how Ideation works for me.

  1. Start with a Raw Idea. Zero value, zero time & resources investment. Often it is not an idea, but a snapshot of a “thought process” (e.g. I hate to… , Why should I…?, Can’t we…? etc). This is the only point of time when ideas are free (or cheap).
  2. The Gap. Not every idea will overcome this gap. Many will be gone the in chasm and you will never think about them again (until you will hear it in the press — and you will!). This is the point where most people stay when claiming that ideas are free — come and get them. (Just because they don’t want to do it themselves.)
  3. Idea meets a Persona prototype with the Pain. Greater than zero value, time for research has been invested. You met people, you talked to domain experts, you “sold” it to somebody. Idea is not free, but cheap. (You might have came up with something that dozens of companies already do — you just never Google’d it.)
  4. The Offer. Idea (and Persona with the Pain) graduates to the status of the offer, once you know why would one choose *you* over alternatives or a large enough market opportunity. Much greater than zero value, time & resources have been invested. This is what I’ll pay you a $100 for.

There are lots of supporting questions come up. Are you capable of doing reliable & trustful research, do you have full knowledge and visibility of market and so on, and so forth.

And, assuming you’ve reached the 4th phase, you can congratulate yourself with having something of value.