#25: How to have really good ideas

Bob Ewing
July 16, 2021

Talking Big Ideas.

“It’s the meeting and mating of ideas that creates progress.”
~ Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist

A few weeks ago I got a tour of the Institute for Justice’s renovated headquarters.

It’s gorgeous and stretches over two office floors. What struck me most is the amount of open and collaborative space. They designed it intentionally to create more opportunities for interaction — both formal and informal.

The Illinois Policy Institute went even further. This past year they redesigned everything. While their new headquarters still has plenty of rooms for privacy, the focus is on space for people to connect.

Architects coined the term “serendipity spaces.” They are being built into offices and schools to foster quality conversations.

Why all the emphasis on bonding and sharing ideas? Don’t the best ideas come from hunkering down alone and thinking hard?

As we discussed last week, we need time without distractions. But creating new and big ideas often requires more than solitary deep work. To spark creativity, the best bet is to go smash ideas together.

Ideally over drinks.

The Green Dragon Tavern in Boston is known as The Headquarters of the American Revolution. Coffeehouses were crucial to the birth of the European Enlightenment. Silicon Valley emerged from conversations among the Traitorous Eight.

The author Steven Johnson explains in Where good ideas come from:

We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. . . . Chance favors the connected mind.

Good conversations collide and combine ideas in unpredictable ways. Matt Ridley, one of my favorite writers, puts it this way: “when ideas have sex, innovation is born.”



New ideas are born when old ideas collide.

What is one way you can create more space to smash ideas together? Could you work one day from a coffee shop? Take a walk with a friend? Attend a local game? Join a Clubhouse chat or a gathering that sounds appealing?

Pick one that excites you and add it to your calendar.


Here are five ways I regularly enjoy bonding and sharing ideas:

Book Clubs

I’m in two book clubs. One is focused on classics, the other on non-fiction. I love being exposed to new books. And hearing the insights and takeaways from the participants.

Mastermind Groups

I’m in a Mastermind Group, a monthly Junto, and a biweekly Indistractable Club. They foster growth through debating ideas and choosing commitments to honor.

Mix up the work space

Some days it’s nice to work from home. Other days I enjoy setting up at a local park or coffee shop. It’s a great way to get outside, meet new people, and connect in unexpected ways.

Play with Family & Friends

I love going on adventures with family and friends. The hikes to and from epic climbs are notorious for good conversation. Rafting rivers, walking around towns, hiking through the woods, and sitting together on porches and around campfires are some of my favorite ways to bond and learn.

Morning Coffee

This is perhaps the most valuable part of my day. Every morning Maryrose and I get together and have coffee for about 45 minutes. No agenda. We just share whatever is on our minds in an open and friendly way. Many of our best ideas — personally and professionally — arise from this.

How do you share your ideas? What serendipity spaces am I missing that I should consider? Please let me know!

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