Sam Altman’s recent blog post about how to generate ideas for startups has some invaluable tips that I think apply to much more than just new companies. As a reminder, Sam Altman is an entrepreneur and the former president of Y Combinator. So he’s had a fair bit of experience dealing with both startups and new ideas. YC also runs lots of experiments in an effort to get better at funding both great founders and great ideas. And it turns out that being able to generate a lot of new ideas is a critical skill to have when doing a startup. But again, I think you can ignore, for a moment, that Sam is even talking about startups and still find value in his words.
Here’s the excerpt that stood out for me:
It’s important to be in the right kind of environment, and around the right kind of people. You want to be around people who have a good feel for the future, will entertain improbable plans, are optimistic, are smart in a creative way, and have a very high idea flux. These sorts of people tend to think without the constraints most people have, not have a lot of filters, and not care too much what other people think.
The best ideas are fragile; most people don’t even start talking about them at all because they sound silly. Perhaps most of all, you want to be around people who don’t make you feel stupid for mentioning a bad idea, and who certainly never feel stupid for doing so themselves.
Stay away from people who are world-weary and belittle your ambitions. Unfortunately, this is most of the world. But they hold on to the past, and you want to live in the future.