5 Ways to Spark New Ideas That Create Impact

Where do new ideas come from? As societies around the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, our team and community at Innovate@BU have spent a lot of time thinking about these questions: 

What challenges and problems have been uncovered by this pandemic? 

What can I do to help solve some of these problems in my own community or around the world?

Right now is the perfect time to think about new and better solutions, but often, the most challenging part of problem-solving is coming up with a new idea. With no time to waste in developing meaningful ideas that could have a major impact, here are five ways to come up with a new idea.

  1. Get comfortable with your own creativity.

    Essential to the process of finding an idea is trusting and being confident in your own creativity! Start by watching this brief TED talk, “How to Build Your Creative Confidence”, by David Kelley, founder of IDEO, a global leader in design and innovation. 


  2. Surround yourself with inspiring (digital) company.

    Get inspired and get your creative juices flowing by checking out innovative ideas on places such as Fast Company, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat. Or, try this podcast, How I Built This on NPR. For local ideas, try AmericanInno, which has coverage and newsletters for a number of metropolitan areas, including Boston. For social impact-focused ideas, check out the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

  3. Start with what you care about.

    Finding an idea to work on starts with identifying a problem that isn’t well-solved, or doesn’t have a solution at all. A poorly-solved problem that is experienced by and important to a large number of people is a high-potential opportunity. No problem is too small either–start with issues that you care about or things that you are naturally drawn to. And, have a notebook to jot down ideas as they come!

  4. Pay attention to the problems you encounter.

    Start by spending an entire day paying close attention to problems you encounter from morning to night. Go one step further by gaining a thorough understanding of the various facets of the problem. Talk to others to understand how they experience this problem. Listen to them actively and deeply. Don’t forget to do research on currently available solutions to understand why they do or don’t work well. 

  5. Brainstorm and begin! 

    Once you have identified a problem that you want to solve and have gained a thorough understanding of it, brainstorm potential solutions by yourself or with others. Don’t forget to give yourself a quiet and relaxed time to let the solution ideas come to you.

    Join a BUild Lab event like our
    Industry Lunch Chats or Terriers Tell Workshops to share ideas with fellow students, or book office hours to talk to our staff and industry experts. We highly recommend joining our self-paced Innovation Pathway program to get inspired, find like-minded peers, learn innovation skills, and help move your idea forward.

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More Innovation, More Inspiration