Stuck coming up with a Big Idea? Host an idea party

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You know the feeling, staring into a blank computer screen, desperate to come up with Your Great Novel or Next Big Startup Smash or Fancy New Program That Will Delight Everyone.

Dullness fills your brain, and desperation rises from your chest into your throat as you realize that you have no ideas, or ideas so lame you would be laughed off the Internet.

It sounds like time for an IDEA PARTY!

First described by the pioneering Barbara Sher, an idea party is a gathering of smart, creative and funny humans for the sole purpose of creating a burst of ideas and inspiration.

Like a good pot of stew, ingredients are everything.

I suggest inviting types of people like:

  • Jeff “I Live to Brainstorm” Livingston
  • Wayne “I Don’t Say Much But When I Do The Room Stops” Gonzalez
  • Nancy “Life Should Have a Tagline” Yee

You may NOT want to invite:

  • Debbie “It Will Never Work” Downer
  • Fred “Find a Fault in Anything” Fredrickson
  • Joe “Let’s Turn the Conversation Around to Me” Jackson

 How to hold an idea party

  1. Send out invites to 15-20 of your favorite crazy thinkers
  2. Invite them to bring a dish to share, or provide crackers, cheese and beverages yourself
  3. Find a comfortable spot where you can throw flipchart paper around, lay down, sit up, stand up, dance and eat
  4. Provide Post-it (TM) flip chart paper, colorful pens, crayons, post-it notes and good music
  5. Have a couple of linked up laptops handy for Google searches
  6. Fire up Evernote or equivalent to capture ideas
  7. Introduce your key idea party topic, like “New killer product for 2012” or “My Epic Business Book
  8. Hand the flip chart pen to the most artistic and skilled facilitator
  9. Invite your participants to go crazy with ideas
  10. Film, document and party to your heart’s desire

You know what would make me happy? If you held an Idea Party and reported back about it here. It is only Wednesday — there is plenty of time to get one set up by Saturday!

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23 Responses to “Stuck coming up with a Big Idea? Host an idea party”

  1. […] in news this morning: Stuck Coming Up With a Big Idea? Host an Idea Party! This article intrigued me because I am always looking for new ideas in a variety of aspects of my […]

  2. I love the #ideaparty tag on Twitter. What’s cool about it is that people can post a (W)ish and an (O)bstacle *anytime*, 24/7. Then folks from around the world pop in (by searching for #ideaparty) and give suggestions. It’s amazing the connections and creativity that happens there!

    And when Barbara Sher joins the conversation, the energy goes through the roof! (She did an online #ideaparty for New Year’s and it was wild!)

    If you’re not on Twitter, it’s worth joining just for these conversations.

    And then search for others who share your passion. You’ll find millions of like-minded people, from all over the world!

    • Barbara Sher says:

      Hi Jennifer! You’re the one who prodded me to do the first New Year’s 24-hour global Twitter Idea Party in 2009, so it’s only right that you’re here. Isn’t this a great blog? I’m impressed!!!

  3. Holy synchronicity batman! I was just thinking of creating a toolkit for my people to host an idea party. So, naturally, I hit Google first and type in “host an idea party” and who do I find talking about idea parties? You. Naturally.

    I love it! I’m so glad to read this and get some validation from you AND Barbara Sher! Perfect!!

  4. […] in news this morning: Stuck Coming Up With a Big Idea? Host an Idea Party! This article intrigued me because I am always looking for new ideas in a variety of aspects of my […]

  5. […] Pamela Slim has a brilliant idea. Are you stuck coming up with big ideas? Host an idea party! […]

  6. Extreme John says:

    I love brainstorming! Never heard of this idea before and it seems like a pretty good idea to us. This will definitely help us think of new ideas and on the top of that, we can have a lot of fun and the stress and pressure of coming up a new idea is surely gone. Thanks for sharing this Pam.

  7. Melinda says:

    What a great idea! I generally just have a “brainstorming party” in my head and sometimes it doesn’t turn out the best. Being able to bounce your ideas off other people is really good for an individual’s thought process as well as being able to hear ideas from other people.

    • Hi, Melinda! (And a wave back at Joe, whose success at living a dream will knock your socks off – click on his name.)
      Avoid bouncing your ideas off your Idea Party guests. These will point your brainstormers into the same pile you’ve been looking in. Instead, tell them your wish and your current obstacle to it. They have already rummaged through hundreds of other piles and will recall things there, and they will combine what they found into some remarkable ideas and give you resources for making them happen.
      Barbara Sher tells about the accountant who thought his dream of being a cowboy was laughable. He ended up living and riding with cowboys while doing the accounting for four ranches who were thrilled to hire him, with room and board, for one week each month.
      Some of your guests even arrive with magic wands and can make an impossible dream a reality on the spot. Barbara Sher tells about the woman who got to dance with Patrick Swayze just days after mentioning it was her big dream.
      I need to schedule my next Idea Party soon. Any of you in Bucks County, PA?

  8. While I was out walking this weekend, I noticed a new storefront in town, the third for a company launched at an Idea Party I held 4 or 5 years back. I grinned for the rest of the day! You would, too, as it was a definite escape from cubicle nation. You could seem him leaping the partitions as the ideas flew.

    This party was one where we took any Wish and any Obstacle. Those are some of the most creative. At one, the group invented a thrilling business plan for a woman who needed to make a living but would much rather be shopping in a thrift shop than answering the phone. The single theme parties are more productive but less wildly creative and inspiring.

    A wave to Joe – I met him at that retreat and love the Twitter #IdeaParty

    • joe says:

      Waving back Patty! 🙂

      • Barbara Sher says:

        Waving at both of you with big grin on my face! For more Idea Party instructions, here’s a link to an article on Idea Parties I wrote for Oprah’s “O” magazine — the Nov issue (that came out in Oct. 🙂 )

        And for those of you who can’t get out of the house or who honestly believe that people aren’t generous with their ideas – get on the telephone with me this month (and next) and meet some people who *love* to share ideas!! I’m running telephone Idea Parties (cheap) and donating the proceeds to different good causes. Take a look:

        And don’t be shy about coming over to the Twitter Idea Party. Just search for #ideaparty and you’ll find us.We have more idea people waiting to fix and invent with fireworks solutions than people who say “Help! This is my wish and this is my obstacle!” With #ideaparty people checking in from all over the world, you can usually get a response at any time of the day or night.

        • Pamela says:

          Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and sharing your great resources Barbara! I am a huge fan of yours. 🙂 Happy New Year!

  9. fas says:

    I am not sure how successful it can be, because people dont tend to share their ideas so easily.

  10. joe says:

    I did a writing retreat with Barbara Sher 2 years ago. She is amazing! Barbara also does idea parties on Twitter #IdeaParty.

    Pam, thanks for putting this out into the Universe.

  11. Richy says:

    A good topic to bring up at an idea party would be the internet “Cloud”. With so many possibilities now due to the emergence of the cloud many companies and individuals are coming up with great ways to incorporate it in to their lives and benefit. Be it financially, by creating a cloud friendly product, or be it mentally and physically, by storing all their files on a cloud storage service such as the ones mentioned at, thus not having to stress or worry if they loss their computer or if it crashes on them because all there data is stored and accessible online 24/7.

  12. Tom Fiffer says:

    An idea party sounds like fun! Here’s a variation on the theme:

  13. Skyler Sweet says:

    Wonderful Idea! Love positivity around co-creating. I also really love how you said “It is only Wednesday — there is plenty of time to get one set up by Saturday!” So true!

  14. Pam,

    LOVE this idea! So much fun . We could all use a lot more of that in our biz.

  15. Andrea Olson says:

    As someone who has a multitude of ideas popping at any one time, I love this concept. What could be better than harnessing the collective energy of a group to super-charge the idea generating process? So fun and productive. Thanks for the idea!

  16. I would totally hold an idea party!! I just finished reading Barbara Sher’s book Live The Life You Love and I also blogged about her idea party suggestion on my website just yesterday. Guess we’re on the same wavelength! Nice post!