3 Ways to Source New Ideas and Maximize Your Education-to-Entertainment Ratio

I’d like to explore some strategies for discovering and sourcing new ideas.  If you’re like me you’ve noticed the pace of innovation and the introduction of new technologies has accelerated substantially.  More importantly the degree of adoption has been staggering.  “Yeah, yeah…” I hear you saying, if you’re skeptical of this phenomenon consider that the iPhone was introduced in 2007.  We’re now in 2014, just seven years later.  How many people do you know personally who have not adopted a smartphone or mobile computing device?  I’m guessing not many.  Consider, when the iPhone was introduced it was a Premium device.  Executives carried them around like corporate calling cards.  Seven years later it is not uncommon to see toddlers gaming and texting on  their own personal devices or better yet finding seniors tweeting.

Perhaps I’ll cover the pros and cons of this topic in more depth in another post, but let’s discuss how it relates to this post’s subject of Sourcing New Ideas.  To put it simply mobile computing has provided a new and very accessible platform for individuals to easily consume content.  The key to benefiting from the technology comes down to – discernment.  This means identifying and leveraging the technology to your advantage.  There’s no problem with consuming some entertaining content  while you sit in line or on the train, but while you do just consider your education-to-entertainment ratio.  That is to say for each mindless scroll down your Facebook Wall, how many information dense sources of content are your consuming and  attempting to learning from.   Not all of the items I’ll here cover are exclusive to mobile computing but it has surely made these resources more accessible.

Utilize Social Networks to Your Benefit

To quote a coach of mine:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. -Jim Rohn

Most people are familiar with social networks.  These tools provide online communities for sharing information and continue to be very disruptive technologies.  If used strategically these tools allow you to network with people and companies that you otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.  These networks are great places to discover new ideas.  Here are a few to consider:

LinkedIn - is a social network focused on professionals.  If you are not looking to network, sell something, or manage an online profile similar to a resume then you can skip this one.  If however you are amongst the professional working ranks you need to have  a basic profile setup on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn uses the concept of “6 Degrees of Separation” to allow you to link to your colleagues and to be introduced to others that are in your colleagues’ networks.  LinkedIn has many great features, here are just a few to consider:

  • Maintain an online profile and highlight your skills to create a personal brand and establish yourself as an authority in your industry
  • LinkedIn provides the ability to connect with others, access their contact details, and message individuals directly via private messages (i.e. similar to email)
  • Recommend or be recommended by a colleague, partner, customer, vendor, etc.
  • Highlight your skills and provide social proof
  • Participate in LinkedIn Groups, similar to online forums
  • Follow LinkedIn “Influencers” and companies

Twitter - is a micro content broadcasting platform.  The key difference between twitter and other social networks is that connecting or tracking other users doesn’t require approval or an invite.  You don’t have to know the person to follow their public tweets (short 140 character messages including links).  Twitter has broad adoption and you can find and follow people and news sources that you would like to keep up with.  Depending on your interests this can include:

  • Celebrities – Actors, musicians, performance artists, etc.
  • Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs
  • Politics
  • Academics
  • Companies and brands
  • * People that you have, or would like to have something in common with.

One of the features that I find very valuable is twitter lists.  Lists are custom folders or containers to track groups of people that you follow and that have something in common.  Lists can be public or private but once setup you can filter the twitter content feeds so that you can quickly get your fix exclusively from the specific list.  Take a look at my public twitter lists.

Facebook – A common and very large social network that got it’s start on the college campus scene and has since become a worldwide phenomenon.  I personally use the site for personal interactions with family and friends but if you’ve only thought about Facebook in this way you’re missing the boat.  Facebook collects massive amounts of personal information on their users and they do this so that they can sell and deliver highly personalized and targeted advertising.  Increasingly business-to-consumer (b-to-c) businesses are shifting a percentage of their advertising budgets away from traditional media to Facebook.  The reason lies in the richness of user information that can be used to target consumers as well as the ability to track consumers’ responses and follow on actions.  Many companies and influential people have special pages setup on Facebook.  These are different from personal pages and allow users to ‘Like‘ their pages to keep up with their recent activities and content.

Instead of scrolling your Facebook Wall for friend updates try searching Facebook’s information archive for things that interest you.  A few examples:

  • Find you favorite musician’s page and Like it to keep up with new music and concert tour stops – BenHowardMusic.co.uk
  • Get motivated and start setting some goals with Anthony Robbins‘ advice.
  • Explore the meaning of the universe and the origins of the cosmos with Neil de GrasseTyson

Listen to Podcasts

Podcasts are free digital multimedia content that can be best described as  online radio shows.  Some podcasts feature video too.  Most podcasts are episodic and podcasting apps like the one found on Apple iOS allow you to “subscribe” to and queue podcasts for your listening enjoyment.  Podcasts found their popularity and platform initially on Apple’s iTunes Store but now there are several popular podcasting apps and platforms.  The content is also typically made available directly from internet sites to play or download.

Source New Ideas - Podcast App

You can find Podcasts on every topic and there are some truly unique niche  content plays that you likely won’t find anywhere else.  The content format can vary from radio shows, presentations, in-depth interviews, training (e.g. language courses), you name it.  I personally have substituted Podcasts for the radio during my drive time commute.  Here are a few Podcasts that I keep in rotation:

The School of Greatness Podcast with Lewis Howes

The Smart Passive Income Podcast with Pat Flynn

Entrepreneur On Fire with John Lee Dumas

The Tim Ferriss Show

Social Triggers Insider with Derek Halpern

 Track and Read Blogs on Topics That Interest You

Blogs short for Web Logs, started out as simple tools that allowed independent web authors to publish content online.  You are currently reading my WordPress powered blog.  Wordpress is a technology known as a CMS or Content Management System.  The application allows authors to create “posts” like what you’re reading right now with out having to know how to program with web technologies (e.g. HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc.).  The posts can be categorized, organized chronologically, searched, and styled to meet the needs of the author.  Blogs can also include multimedia like graphics, pictures, slideshows, media players, etc.  There are many different CMSs and these tools offer a great deal of out of the box functionality.  They can also typically be extended via plugins or add-on modules.

Blogs have been around literally as long as the internet and there are blogs on every imaginable topic.  If you have an interest, chances are there is someone in the world with a similar interest that has a blog where they share content related to your shared interest.  CMSs and blogs are very good at SEO or Search Engine Optimization.  This is why when you perform a Google search on a topic, chance are several blogs will be featured on the first page of the Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page).  I search Google a lot I also read a lot of blogs.  I am always amazed by the quality and depth of content that I am able to freely access via blogs.  Here are a few examples of blog results returned by Google searches:

Finally once you find a few blogs that you enjoy it’s sometimes easier to access blog content with an RSS Reader (Really Simple Syndication).  The technology behind RSS Readers and RSS Feeds can seem highly technical for the uninitiated but it’s really pretty simple.  The RSS service basically checks to see if there’s any new content on the blogs that you track and then presents a summarized version of it back to you.  Then via the reader you can read content from different blogs without actually having to visit the blog website.  You always have the option to click through to the native site but the reader is a convenient way to access content from multiple blogs simultaneously.  The reader application keeps track of new content, content you’ve read, and content you’ve yet to read.  This saves you from having to bookmark the blog sites and manually checking each one when you have time to read to see if any new content has been published.  I use and recommend the feedly RSS reader  - feedly.com .  Feedly has great recommendation, search and discover tools.  If you already have a blog that you’d like to add to feedly simply type in the blogs web address (e.g. scottmortiz.com, hint) into Feedly’s search bar and you’ll be able to add the content into the reader.

This post got long quickly and I can go into much more detail on each one of these resources.  I use these systems regularly to source new ideas on topics that interest me both professionally and personally.  If any of these are new to you I encourage you to explore them.  If you do, I’d love to hear about your experiences or any tips and tricks you pick up along the way.

Photo credits:

Featured image, licensed under CreativeCommons via Ars Electronica on flickr.com

Hasta…