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The Birth of Great Ideas
 

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Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:

How good ideas come to be. You can forget about those Eureka moments. Rather, innovative ideas often result from a series of small hunches coalescing over time, explains outside.in co-founder and author Steven Johnson in this fun video on venture capitalist Fred Wilson's blog. The video serves as a preview for Johnson's soon-to-be-released book, which Wilson calls "as close to a must read for this audience as there is."

And getting those ideas heard. What do you do when you have a boss that consistently rejects your ideas to help revenue or make the company run more efficiently? "A good first step," writes Anne Fischer in her CNN Money column 'Ask Annie,' is to "adapt your style to one that's easy for your boss to handle." In other words, figure out your boss's demeanor, and then go from there. Your approach to proposing a new idea should depend on his or her style, not yours.  For example, if your boss is strict and formal, your approach should be different than if your boss is a casual and laid back. Be careful not to overwhelm your boss either, she writes. And, if all else fails, there's always the option of going above your boss.

What to ask when interviewing prospective employees. According to Kevin O'Connor, CEO of FindTheBest.com and founder and former CEO of DoubleClick, the key to getting the most out of hiring interviews is to make the potential employees squirm a bit by asking them some tough questions. In an interview with The New York Times, O'Connor says, "I try to give them a question that feels like a two-by-four between the eyes." Rather than asking the standard softball questions which tend to get canned responses, O'Connor will ask potential questions like, "How smart are you?" He says that he can tell a lot about the prospective employee by the way they handle uncomfortable questions. As he explains, "I really love competitive people. I want people who, when the ship's almost underwater, they figure out how to save it."

Finding your wingman. Sometimes co-founders meet organically. Sometimes you have to seek them out. Today's VentureBeat features a guest post by Zephrin Lasker, CEO of Pontiflex, that offers tips on the latter. A co-founder, Lasker writes, "sets the DNA for your company," and while not every friend is right for the job, he says the best co-founders are friends first. "Trust is paramount," Lasker writes. "It's much harder to build that kind of confidence with someone you don't know." He also suggests partnering with "your mirror, not your clone," meaning you "share the same vision" but offer each other new ways of looking at things. Perhaps the simplest rule Lasker lays out is "live in the same city," because working in close quarters "breaks down barriers and assures open communication." If the right person lives hundreds of miles away, Lasker writes, "one of you needs to move."

Wooing workers' better halves. Ever think much about your employees' main squeezes? A column in the Wall Street Journal posits they matter ... a lot. That's because as a business owner you need a team of workers that is emotionally invested in your company - not just motivated to earn a carrot now and then. If your ace salesperson goes home at night to a partner who thinks their job stinks, and says things along the lines of "how much longer are you going to work for that jerk?" it's going to taint their view. How to win over someone you might never meet? Mike Michalowicz suggests starting from Day One with a paperwork-free day full of refreshments, gifts, and plenty of face time with their supervisor. And don't forget to send home gifts for the spouse and kids, too.

From pencil and paper to profits.. This week, the Washington Post's Thomas Heath tells the uplifting story of Ann Dolin, a former Fairfax County public school teacher who started her own tutoring business in 1998. At 29 and living on a $500 handout from her husband, Dolin scrapped some extra dollars together by tutoring students one-on-one. Her "educational coaching" method proved to be so valuable that she was soon tutoring for 40 hours a week from her home in Reston. When both her students and time maxed out, she turned to a friend's recommendation: finding independent contractors to work along with her. In no time Dolin became a full-fledged business owner -- incorporating the business, setting up finances, and eventually assuming her role as manager over tutors. The transition wasn't easy, but she hired a consultant and quickly learned how to set prices, increase volume, cover fixed costs, and manage her tutors well to maximize profit. Dolin's annual profits of $150,000 now pay for much of the family's expenses, including the purchase of a second home in Florida last summer.

Artificial intelligence in your palm. The stuff from 2001: A Space Odyssey, is being built into software and hardware for tablets and smartphones, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. IBM's take on AI software has been dubbed "Watson," and analysts say in a few years it could be in your doctor's office, with the ability to sift through a terabyte of data and offer a diagnosis in seconds. Who else has AI in the works? Oh, just Intel, Google, HP, Apple, AT&T, and Sprint Nextel. AT&T has devoted more than a million research hours into the technology, and will reportedly let developers make mobile apps that access and tap into its AI engine.

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Last updated: Sep 21, 2010




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