Many big ideas start life as small ones. How do they grow? Their inventors nurture them and improve them over time, increasing their value many times over before releasing them into the world.

So how can you add 10x or more value to a special idea you’re nurturing? Here are 10 simple but powerful ways. The only tool that’s required to achieve such spectacular results is one you already own: your amazing creative brain:
1. Combine it with another idea. Generate many ideas, and then look for opportunities to combine aspects of several ideas into one. Remember: Some of the world’s most successful products were simply innovative combinations of existing ideas. A case in point: The ubiquitous iPhone, which combines a cell phone with a camera and music player. Apps extend its functionality even farther, enabling it to replace additional devices and tools.

2. Use the SCAMPER technique to improve the idea. During the last several decades, one of the most widely used and successful brainstorming techniques has been SCAMPER, which stands for Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify/Magnify/Minify, Put to other uses, Eliminate and Reverse/Rearrange. This brainstorming technique forces you to look at challenges or problems from a variety of creative perspectives. In so doing, it whacks you out of your usual, rutted mode of thinking and often yields valuable, creative ideas.

3. Perform a SWOT analysis of your idea. This will help you to crystallize your thinking around your idea’s strengths, help you to identify potential weaknesses and correct them, explore opportunities to improve your idea and anticipate potential threats to it. Create it as a 4-quadrant chart, which will make it easier to see these aspects of your ideas in relation to each other.

4. Consider other groups of people to which it may also appeal. Ask creative questions like these:
  • What are their needs?
  • Are they different from the core group of customers to which your idea is aimed?
  • If so, what do those needs imply in terms your idea?
  • Where does it meet their needs?
  • Where does it miss the mark?
  • How could the idea be improved to better suit their needs, without diluting its value to your core customer group?

5. Ask a colleague for suggestions on how to improve it. You need someone you can trust to be honest with you – and also to keep it a secret, if you don’t want your idea released into the world just yet. This type of feedback is critical, because often we get so wrapped up in what we think is a great idea that we lose the ability to step back and look at it dispassionately.

6. Post a basic version of your idea on your social channels or blog, and ask for feedback and suggestions. This is an excellent way to mobilize your network of contacts and acquaintances on your behalf. Of course, don’t do this if the idea is proprietary and may put your company at risk from a competitive standpoint. If your company has an internal social media network, you could also post your idea there. What you’re after is a variety of perspectives on how to make your idea better, and this technique should result in some suggestions you may not have considered.

7. Do Google searches of keywords related to your new idea. Seek out examples of what people in other industries or professions have tried that may be analogous to it. Often, you can learn from their approaches. Another powerful tool for identifying keywords and concepts related to your idea is the innovative ( It aggregates all of the auto-suggested terms for searches on Google and Bing, a treasure trove of hints of the motivations and emotions of the people behind each search query.
  • For example, a search of the term “mindmap” reveals:
  • 73 questions
  • 101 prepositions
  • 79 comparisons
  • 515 alphabetically arranged terms
  • 20 related concepts
Click on any one of these, and AnswerthePublic displays a visualizations of the terms it found. Questions can be a particularly powerful one, if you’re searching for ideas for customer problems you can solve. Comparisons and prepositions may be useful collections if you’re brainstorming content ideas. In any case, clicking on a listing in these uber-mind maps opens a Google search of it in a new browser tab.

8. Explore metaphors for your idea, and follow them to see where they lead. Ask yourself questions like, “How is my idea like…?” and “What is this idea similar to…?” Force fit different metaphors until you find several that help you generate new insights about your idea.

9. Express your idea in a different medium, to see what insights it provokes. Sketch it out or diagram it. Make a clay model of it. Journal it. Create a collage of magazine images that represent different aspects of it. These exercises will take you out of your comfort zone, and may suggest additional avenues for improving your idea.

10. Create a low-fidelity, low-cost prototype of the basic idea that you can show to small groups of prospective customers to get their feedback. Sometimes, it’s hard for people to wrap their heads around an idea. Being able to touch and handle a physical manifestation of it gives them a whole new understanding of what it is and its potential. Then use their feedback to improve the idea.

If you found this article to be valuable and would like to read more tips on how to improve your ideas, read my article on how to transform your “diamond in the rough” thoughts into priceless ideas.

Good luck nurturing and growing your small ideas into big ones!


  • Chuck Frey

    Entrepreneur & Creative Thinker

    Chuck Frey is the author and publisher of the Mind Mapping Software Blog, where he writes about all forms of visual thinking. He also writes extensively about creativity, brainstorming and productivity on his personal blog, and was the former founder and publisher of, the world's largest innovation website 2002-2012. He is an avid photographer, and is always looking for new ways to "see" challenges and opportunities!