If you simply want ideas, head straight to your nearest library or bookstore. There you will find, prominently shelved, books and magazines covering all the ideas currently obsessing the world.

But if you want to find unpopular, offbeat ideas -- the very sort that often produce the biggest breakthroughs -- you'll need a different strategy. If everyone is talking about a book, it's unlikely to provide you with a fresh perspective or completely contrarian viewpoint, after all.

So where can you go to unearth the truly weird ideas that will really challenge and open up your thinking? That's what Stripe co-founder Patrick Collison asked his 72,000+ followers recently on Twitter:

The resulting discussion pulled in CEOs, prominent academics and thinkers, and startup industry veterans, offering an incredibly diverse selection of strategies for expanding your mind. The thread is too rich to be completely summarized here, but here are some of the best suggestions: 

  1. Reading old predictions about the future. Collison pointed to this book as an example
  2. Reddit. "Haven't seen a place with more weird and surprising ideas," Stripe employee Mike Mahlkow tweeted back to his boss. He named r/changemyview, r/dataisbeautiful, r/askhistorians, r/neutralpolitics, r/insightfulquestions, and r/Freethought as some of his favorite subreddits.
  3. International travel and living abroad. "Traveling and living in far away places for months will make you experience very weird stuff," claims Nomad List creator Pieter Levels.
  4. Arthouse movies. "Any movie that has a high critic rating on rottentomatoes but an abysmal audience score usually has interesting ideas," suggests Forward Blockchain CEO Conrad Barski.
  5. Talking to weird people. It's kind of obvious but it bears repeating: talking to weird and unusual people is a great way to hear about weird and unusual ideas. Most will be bats**t crazy. A few will be ultimate brain candy.
  6. Get involved with cultish subcultures. Liveoak Technologies COO Alex Hardy recommends "diving headfirst into various cults / tribes / rituals both online and IRL." Examples include CrossFit, crypto, and biohacking enthusiasts, or technology alarmists.
  7. Being random on Twitter. Sure, you can use Twitter to keep up with your field (or fave celebrity), but editorial strategy advisor Davide Berretta says he also benefits from "following people (usually academics) in fields I know nothing about."  
  8. Operational tours of other industries. Look for work-related inspiration specifically? Jeff Weinstein, a product and engineering manager at Box, advises "operational tours of other industries. Those our are work field trips. Recent adventures include a newspaper printing plant in Concord, typecasting and bookbinding in Presidio, and a local news station daily round up."
  9. Crash conferences. Wired founder Kevin Kelly chimed in with an intriguing secondhand idea: "Alvin Toffler (Future Shock) said that whenever he gave a talk at a conference at a hotel he'd crash the other conferences down hall to get an insider view of something weird, surprising or new to him." 
  10.  Talk to artists. A couple of tech industry veterans noted that their companies bring artists in to give talks. "Bouncing ideas with them definitely made me think more creatively about technology," claims one AngelList employee. Other respondents recommended going to art galleries and speaking with artists there.

Do you have any other great sources of unusual ideas you'd add to this list?

Published on: Mar 1, 2018