I came across a great blog post on the idea maze, based on a lecture by Balaji Srinivasan. I read it through the lens an employee at a large bank and aspiring “intra-preneur”.

It points out that it is relatively straightforward to have an idea, to identify the point of entry to a complex maze. The heavy lifting is to think through and develop deep, unique insight into all possible paths from idea to profit.

In order to generate this bird’s eye view, four sources of inspiration are highlighted. Each source has a distinct representation inside a large bank.

  1. Past history: Identify similar ideas that have been tried before. It is the beauty and often discouraging fact that most ideas have been tried, but died on a vine for various reasons (eg political, technological, or organizational constraints). Finding out requires some connection to senior people who have been around. Sharing your idea and not operating in stealth mode has benefits that compensate for the small risk of having the idea stolen.
  2. Analogy: Identify other businesses within a large bank where the idea has been tried, perhaps in a different format with adaptations for that business’s nuances. Like buying an old home, a little imagination is required to see how it applies - if it was obvious, there isn’t much value in your contribution.
  3. Theories: Connect with your local academic institutions to find scholars on the problem. By offering adjustments to the assumptions in their publications to account for business specifics, this source may provide deep insight.
  4. Direct experience: Put yourself in the maze and be aware that you are in one.