Five years ago, I started logging ideas and observations in OneNote around pain points/sources of friction/other ideas related to things I’ve read/listened to in business models, customer experiences, technologies, process, civic engagement, and physical products. I’ve now compiled more than 100 concepts in my “Life Ideas” tab. When I first started doing this, I noticed they quickly bred.

Powered by an abundance mindset, one of my core values is sharing prolifically.

I am not going to take action on most of these, so why not share them, in case they spark something beneficial in the world?

A couple of them died on the vine in a research phase:

And many more live on only in my personal notebook, never to see the light of day until now.

So, in no particular order, I present you with some Life Ideas, some of which likely did or now already exist. Some one-liners and some more developed…some good and some terrible…

Business

  • Family airport lounge
    • Hang out space
    • Healthy snacks
    • Healthy learning toys
    • Laundry
    • Concierge
    • Car seats
    • Local art
    • Local artisans
    • Yoga/meditation space
    • Drop-in massage with childcare
    • Led by educator
    • Tech connections
    • Wireless and loaner iPads
    • Bathrooms with showers
    • Membership-based with drop-in passes
    • Network across major international airports
    • Connect with children’s museums/attractions
    • Nursing lounges
    • Partner with TSA Pre-Check
  • Storytelling app
    • Parent narrated e-books
    • Choose your own adventure with drag and drop items
    • Custom photo-based character for up-charge
    • Print pages for up-charge
    • Narrated e-photo albums
    • Parents and kids to create stories together
    • Visual Storycorps for families
  • Conformity Suit clothing line for the hidden hipsters embedded in corporations
  • Hairbus – on demand styling in a restored VW bus
  • Musicians on demand
  • Bar truck, on-demand liquor delivery
  • Pop-up restaurant/lunch cart at co-working spaces
  • Donut delivery
    • Donut bus on demand
  • Startup fantasy camp – week-long camp to help shift corporate thinking
    • Help corporations run their own hackathons
  • Startup Motel
    • Turn local motels closed for the winter into live/work incubators for startups in tourism/hospitality/cannabis/outdoor recreation => founders-in-residence program
    • Live/work/sell spaces for artists and startups
    • Café on site
    • Community hub
    • Classes
  • PLAY | A Creativity Space
    • Where grownups go to be creative and let their guards down, a mobile truck, available on-demand to visit various locations
    • Mobile play lab
  • Vice | Coffee, Chocolate, Cannabis
  • Recruiting company focusing on neuro-diverse candidates
  • Morning Pages journal (see Julia Cameron’s work) and pen/ink subscription service – eco-friendly lines – find the perfect notebook and smooth writing
  • Ladies Who CTO – contract/fractional CTOs to get startups going
  • bigcrazyvision – an accessible, sustainable, immersive experience in the forest, a social enterprise and SI-focused business incubator made of shipping containers (haven’t let go of this one quite yet)

 

Product

  • Post-It notes die-cut in the shape of process flow steps (for Business Analysts and other facilitators)
  • Nerf-shaped natural pellets – shoot wildflower seeds out into a field
    • What other natural things might be shot from a Nerf gun?
  • Algorithm-created jewelry
    • Plug in materials, themes, inspiration
    • Generate model
    • Data-informed jewelry
  • Art to Die For – reinvent the death and legacy experience
    • Inventive sculptures in place of boring gravestones
  • Meeting/networking shakeup cards/activity => “social training wheels”
    • Networking activities in a box friendly to introverts
    • Physical product meant to engage people as an alternative to open mingling
  • Worry journal for kids
    • Like a dream catcher, keep the worries contained
    • See worry dolls/stones
    • Drawing exercises
    • Mindfulness exercises
    • Coloring
    • Poetry
    • Make a game to capture the worry monster and turn it into an ally not an enemy
  • Code lessons for adults, just like you’d take piano lessons
    • Weekly exercises
    • “Codeching”
    • For those interested in learning to code for whom online classes aren’t working and can’t commit to full-on bootcamp

 

Tech

  • Gas station app that stores payment, receipt, car wash preferences- swipe phone at beginning
  • Product naming app/algorithm => plug in attributes and it creates a name for you- hits translation databases to create unique word
    • Name scanner – make sure your name ideas aren’t something explicit/offensive in another language
    • Enter lists of words. Tool combines them and checks to see if the .com is available
  • Family Tripper
    • Answer short survey about dates, interests, budget and receive customized itinerary- click book and have reservations made for you
    • Algorithm that plans stops, fill-ups, meals, hotels
  • Recycling sensors at sorting facilities that detect materials and auto-route to appropriate place
  • App that scans legal jargon to determine if there is anything you should be concerned about
  • Crowdsourced info about final car prices
  • RFID stickers for skis/snowboards/bikes – map routes to turn into art and theft-prevention – register your gear and when taking to a pro shop, verify ownership
  • App that disables all apps and turns your smart phone into a dumb phone
    • Digital detox app
  • Social impact business marketplace
  • Interactive dance floor – sensors underneath that track and display movement on a large screen real-time
    • Festival tracker art – track collective movement around an event to create a canvas art piece
  • Startup Accelerator rating engine
  • A way to measure the environmental impact of a software application/product
    • Product rating system
    • Tools that evaluate environmental impact of compute power
    • Plugin, dashboard…
    • Buy products, choose shipping method based on environmental impact
  • Select a recipe and have all the items for it appear in grocery shopping cart online
  • Airport scavenger hunt for kids and adults
  • Collect anonymous consulting rates – billable vs. actual pay
  • Layer What3Words data on top of native lands data
    • Plug in your What3Words location and learn about native lands
  • Freelancer support marketplace
    • One-stop shop for templates, invoices, receiving payments, legal guidance, other useful content, insurance options…
    • Help people run successful, integrated freelance businesses
    • Where do freelancers go for support now?
  • How might I bring daily mantras/intentions and beautiful code together?
    • Virtual mala stringing app
    • Multi-media meditation tool
    • Daily mantra/manifestation/intention
  • Helping small businesses to comply with privacy regulations
    • Privacy management systems/templates
    • Open-source for small biz
  • Consolidated app or resource for little known Veteran’s benefits
  • Social impact technology incubator/accelerator
    • I developed a pitch deck around this one based on spinning up a new practice area within an existing technology consulting firm (removed branding for ease of re-use)
    • Please feel free to download and amend and attribute, where appropriate

 

Content

  • Dear Boss – curated anonymous letters you always wanted to send, but didn’t
  • A toolkit for how to drive DE&I conversations forward with your manager/company leadership
  • Similar to reading angry tweets out loud, read error messages from software programs that are supposed to be friendly to business users
  • Life lessons from kid TV
    • Be a friend to make a friend. Barbie
    • What kind of elf do you want to be? Saving Santa
    • Big (movie) and how unconventional attitudes/ideas are squashed
  • (Find Your) Purpose Canvas

 

Civic

  • Helping citizens to become more literate around tech policy and helping government officials to know what they need to know about tech – Tech policy 101
  • Gov’t crowdsourcing/idea platform to solicit solutions to big problems from ordinary citizens- i.e., budget 
  • Small town innovation incubator/accelerator
    • Invite startups based on nearby industry
    • Get equity
    • Provide funding and infrastructure

 

Fintech/Insurance

  • Partner with university financial aid organizations to develop a product for recent grads- investment product to pay off student loans and provide life insurance
    • Discounted student loan interest rate bundled with term life policy and lender as primary beneficiary
  • Create a hip and modern financial services/insurance company
      • Brokerage firm that makes insurance sexy
      • Sleek Apple store approach
      • Modern pod kiosks, smart phone blood analysis
      • Coffee bar
  • Visual human body representation to identify history of medical conditions instead of lengthy question process when applying for life insurance
    • http://www.bodylabs.com/bodykit.html (inspiration – no longer active site)
    • Identify part of the body (heart, lungs, kidneys, etc.)
    • See pop up list of most common/serious medical conditions for each body part
    • Drag different icons into your scene to build your history – make it creative experience, graphic, game-like
    • What are highest level pieces of information that could be good enough indication for a fully underwritten quote?
  • Lifesquare (no longer active) allowed QR code with health history to be scanned – could something similar be done for estate planning?
  • Socially-responsible investment engine/wizard
    • Pick the areas one wants to avoid – tobacco, firearms, oil…
    • Get suggestions
    • Make investments
    • Monitor investments

 

Process and Tools

For ideas that spark enough pain or passion, my next step in the process is often to jump into a Lean Canvas and set up a Trello board. This public board is available for copy and reuse (instructions within the board itself).

When trying to come up with names, sometimes I’ll make a mind map on paper and lists of words to start combining. “Worst possible idea” brainstorming can also be a fun and novel technique to test out.

 

Ideas-as-a-Service

If you need help brainstorming for an interesting, impact-focused initiative (education, healthcare, social justice, sustainability, DEI), let’s talk.

 

Icons via The Noun Project.

Photo by Finn Hackshaw on Unsplash.