Idea File: Give your ideas away for free

The idea

Some items people commonly collect include antiques, comic books, bobbleheads, shotglasses, and more. Kevin Boyle and Rick Horan collect ideas.

They stand in places like NYC’s High Line or Times Square with a large sign and ask people to share their ideas, some of which they post on their website or talk about in a podcast. They’ve heard it all: from tax returns that allow you to choose where your tax dollars are spent to a health rating for nail salons to making South America the largest rollerblading rink in the world. Some people even sing to them.

The idea came to Kevin after reading about blogger Andrew Dubber’s project to give 30 ideas in 30 days away for free.

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Kevin Boyle and Rick Horan. (Photo via Ideas Improv.)

“His rationale was, If I’m not going to do anything with these ideas, maybe someone else will,” Kevin says. “I started thinking about tweaking and expanding his idea and taking it to a much broader level. Instead of one guy doing it why not ask everyone?”

From solar energy to healthcare to education, most ideas they hear are for the common good.

“Our Ideas Wanted project is all about engagement. And there seems to be a yearning for good old conversation. Sharing ideas seems to us as the ideal way to open up organizations to new people and new ideas,” Kevin says.

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File

  • Ideas for the sake of ideas. Ideas are inherently valuable and (most times) worth pursuing. Just giving someone the opportunity to say their idea aloud might help get them, or someone else, motivated to act on it.
  • Encourages unlikely connections. So far the duo has met people from 26 countries and counting. “The ideas we get are often great but without a doubt it’s the people we’ve met. I mean the smart, funny, curious, and generous folks we’ve come across has made the whole project worthwhile,” Kevin says.
  • Makes a case for not reinventing the wheel. Kevin and Rick have found that a lot of ideas aren’t new, and most are similar to one another. It’s a good reason to see what’s out there being done already, and connect with someone else first before starting from scratch.

How you can replicate it

Since the project launched last September, Kevin and Rick have taken their signs across the country from Miami to Seattle. They’d love nothing more than to go to all 50 states and then some in hopes of making a documentary.

Also in the works is “an ‘ideas’ program to promote idea sharing, brainstorming, collaboration, and creativity in schools.” Eventually they hope to engage civic groups, and given the damage Hurricane Sandy did to their hometown in the Rockaways, they also want to collect suggestions on how to make the area more resilient.

If you’re inspired to solicit strangers where you live, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Under the lights on Broadway. (Photo via Ideas Improv.)

  1. Go to the crowds. Locations that have a steady stream of people not in a rush are ideal.
  2. Make obvious signs with big letters. “Ideas Wanted” will spark people’s curiosity.
  3. Keep it general. Welcome ideas about anything and everything and allow yourself to be surprised.
  4. Bring a camera. “Some people are shy and that’s okay. Most people? They see a camera and they become much more intrigued,” Kevin says. “You can tell them the idea is being given out for all the world to see.”
  5. Limit idea pitches to 60 seconds or less. While some people will go on and on no matter what, having a time restraint will help most people focus.
  6. Persist with idea hoarders. “If people don’t want to share their idea because they’re afraid you’ll steal it, ask for their second, third, or fourth best idea,” Kevin says. You can also tell them you’re too busy doing the project to steal theirs.
  7. Ask for their contact information. You’ll want to keep them informed about how the project progresses.
  8. Have fun. Joke with and cajole people as they pass to make them feel invited.

“A lot of people will be stumped. They have ideas all the time but they’re suddenly brain dead when asked for an idea,” Kevin finally says. “Talk to them about the project. Tell them you’ll be there for a while so if they want to come back you’ll be ready. If you have fun with it, people will have fun, too.”

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Interested in promoting idea sharing at your school, nonprofit, or workplace? Feel free to get in touch with Kevin: kevinboyle@ideasimprov.com.

Do you know of other projects that are fun and potentially replicable? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, leave a comment below or email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.

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Comments (3)


  1. Beth Worthy writes:
    November 21, 2012 at 2:13 am

    “Creativity has the power to change the world. Fear has the power to stop that. Successful Ideas are the one’s who can balance the two.”


  2. Ray writes:
    April 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Sustainable Energy Concepts:

    Currently all wind capturing techniques are turbine to wind. This concept is wind to turbine by the use of ripstop nylon windsocks, with a flat ripstop nylon hose attached to the tails. Route the wind to turbines, mounted on the ground. Manifolds, on the ground, could be used to combine the windsocks. The windsocks could also be mounted under an airfoil, lifted by helium balloons, for high altitude wind capture. Put bird netting over the opening to prevent birds and bats from entering the funnel.

    This technique is much faster, cheaper, and safer than anything currently used or proposed.

    Combine this new technique with this new technique.

    How Our World Can Use 50% Less Watt-hours of Electricity:

    Here’s a new concept of reducing the Watt-hours used by 50%, by doubling the electricity’s frequency, using a variable frequency drive in series with a diode, to power various devices.

    If an electric clock is powered at twice its frequency, then it will run twice as fast. If the power is half-wave rectified, then it will run on time using half of the Watt-hours.

    This works! It electronically quickly turns the power ON and OFF. The power is switched OFF 50% of the time. The Watt-hours used are reduced by 50%. The frequency must be doubled to make the ON and OFF cycle quick enough. For example: 60 Hertz power has 120 ON pulses (or half-cycles) per second. Therefore 120 Hertz, half-wave rectified, is needed to have 120 ON pulses and 120 OFF pulses per second. This results in a 50% reduction of the Watt-hours used. Please try it using an incandescent light bulb.

    It can be easily empirically tested by obtaining an appropriate variable frequency drive and diodes.

    The ON and OFF cycle will not be visually perceived in lighting for the same reason that flicker is not perceived in animation.

    If 50 or 60 Hertz is half-wave rectified, the light will glow brown, but you will be using 50% less Watt-hours of electricity. As you increase the frequency, the light will get brighter and brighter, still using 50% less Watt-hours of electricity. Eventually you will not see any difference in the light’s brightness and you will still be using 50% less Watt-hours of electricity.

    A light pulsed quickly enough will not seem to be pulsed, but it will use 50% less Watt-hours of electricity.

    It will not be cheap, but it can be done slowly, over time, by the utility.

    Double the electricity’s frequency after the neighborhood’s step-down transformer and then half-wave rectify it in the drop wires to the consumer. You will be using 50% less Watt-hours of electricity, much less fossil fuels and pollution.

    It’s a win/win solution for everyone!


  3. [...] Hi Jamesmmm! I’m glad you have substantial ideas. Ideas are important and powerful, and they’re how we start to change the world. (You can’t make an idea-list without them). There are a lot of great ways to share your ideas with others: you might, for instance, attend a Sunday Soup Potluck. Or an Ignite event. You might even find someone who’s an idea collector! [...]


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