4 things you need to know about executing on your ideas

Good ideas come to us all every day, passing by like clouds in the sky. However, a relatively few number of people manage to act on them effectively. 

We drive home from work, are struck with inspiration, pat ourselves on the back and move on. 

Our business, 3D Print Western is built upon turning out ideas on a daily basis, and below is a trick that helps us find success. 

1. Develop a low friction way to capture your ideas.

Inspiration can happen anytime and anywhere. And not long after it occurs, it can just as easily be gone. 

You need a quick and easy way to capture those fleeting gems. A few tools that I use  and keep with me at all times are Siri on my iPhone, and a notebook specifically for capturing ideas. 

Using Siri on your iPhone or iPad 

  1. Press and hold the “home” button on your iPhone or iPad. 
  2. Say “take a note”
  3. Siri will automatically place your dictation in your Notes app. 

My favorite notebook for capturing ideas

Rhodia is highly ranked and recommended amongst paper enthusiasts, which I am not. But if you scour the enthusiast websites for superior stationary – Rhodia is a recurring theme. 

For me, the paper quality is great, and I feel good knowing that technically astute paper aficionados have given it the thumbs up. 

2. Determine what your filter is for selecting ideas to execute on

Wired magazine co-founder and technologist, Kevin Kelly has a great filter that he uses when deciding on projects to embark on. 

Picture a Venn diagram with 3 circles intersecting. In order to embark on a project, the three criteria must be true:

  • Something that people need 
  • Something that I’m good at
  • Can or will anybody else do it

For the third point, you may have an idea that is marginally better than anything else that is currently available. But decide on a filter that makes sense in order to help you prioritize and vet which ideas to take action on. 

3. Begin with the end in mind and work backwards

As Einstein famously noted, if you can’t explain something simply you do not understand it well. 

Begin by describing your idea in great detail as if it has already happened. 

  • What does it look like? 
  • Who uses it?
  • How do they use it?
  • When and where do they use it?
  • Where do they buy it?
  • How do you sell it to them?
  • How do you make it?

If you cannot answer these types of questions, you will need to do some creative thinking in order to paint a clear picture for yourself. 

4. Decide on your first step

At our company we work in 2 week worlds using Sprints to break down larger projects. 

Once you have fleshed out your idea, you want to determine the first step, and lowest cost method to validate it as soon as possible. 

The best way to validate an idea is to see if someone would be willing to write you a cheque. If it is not an idea that you intend to monetize, decide on a different metric that would help provide quantifiable feedback for you. Give yourself a target of 1 month to get a website or Facebook page up and see if you can get anyone to take action.

Thanks to services like Shopify, Etsy, WordPress templates and Facebook storefronts, it is getting easier and easier for anyone to start a business or create a product or service for next to zero upfront cost. 

Whatever your big ideas, working through these 4 simple steps will help allow you to turn them into reality. 

Artificial Intelligence as a Platform

With much talk these days about platforms, I wanted to put down some thoughts around the platform as a concept, their evolution as well as future implications around artificial intelligence as a platform tool.

What is a platform?

The dictionary defines a platform as:

“a raised level surface on which people or things can stand”

So what is the purpose of an elevated level surface on which people or things can stand?

I think the most obvious benefits would include some variation on the following:

  • To see or be seen
  • To hear or be heard
  • To access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible

To see or be seen

Taking this metaphor further, the obvious examples are applications like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The power of these platforms, barely 10 years old have enabled people around the world to accomplish some pretty radical feats, previously difficult to reproduce.

I ran into an old acquaintance this week who I haven’t seen or spoken to in over 5 years. We knew all about each other’ families, recent vacations and accomplishments before the first sentence could be uttered. We’ve quickly integrated and normalized these now ordinary capabilities into our everyday lives, but this is as close to omniscience as I can imagine we’ve ever been.

To hear or be heard

Back in Mozart’s time, the people who were able to witness his musical talents were limited to the fortunate few who were able to fit into his concert halls. Platforms such has iTunes have leveled the playing field giving anyone on the planet with a smartphone access to billions of ears.

To access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible

Uber and Airbnb are the newest members in a string of platforms creating a near perfect matching of supply and demand. To match “I have a car” with “I need a car” without the need for any searching, or struggle is an extremely powerful use of the platform model, and I think this is a preview of what is to come over the next few years.

Artificial Intelligence as a platform tool

In terms of technology, a calculator in its simplest form is a platform which enables more advanced, accurate and efficient calculations, allowing its users to achieve greater and possibly more advanced results. I can remember doing our multiplication tables in elementary – getting the number combinations driven into our heads so that they came to us intuitively.

However, from the standpoint of cognitive load, one could argue that the time spent memorizing these tables took away from practicing more advanced mathematical calculations at an earlier age.
A handful of schools in Finland have taken this concept to heart and allowed calculators in the classrooms from the outset. They have the viewpoint that these platforms will create space to focus on more advanced and practical problem sets earlier on, giving their students a leg up on the traditional model of learning.

Comments like Elon Musk’s recent musings on the “non-benign” apocalyptic fate of our AI future are having people take notice. However, I am of the mindset that AI is  going to play out as a more advanced version of the calculator. I believe it will allow us to access something or somewhere that was previously inaccessible – leading to a world of abundance, as Peter Diamandis puts it.

Our “Massively Transformative Purpose” at our company 3D Print Western is to help accelerate progress through technology. At the core of this idea is the elimination of waste. Wasted effort through automation, wasted time through digital manufacturing, wasted money through unnecessary advertising and marketing. Focusing instead on delivering greater value through research and innovation.

Artificial Intelligence will be an incredible tool which will enable the elimination of these wastes helping us instead to focus more energy and resources towards creating a better future.