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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