My wife is an artist going on 20 years now. (You can see her art here.) I have noticed over time that she gets inspired by new ideas, incorporates them into her art, eliminates the ideas that she doesn’t like, and incorporates the ideas that she does like into her next pieces. The ideas combine in interesting ways and help her to generate new ideas. She also gets great inspiration and ideas from viewing other artists’ work. Sometimes she returns from a trip viewing great art incredibly frustrated with all of the new ideas that she wants to test in her artwork — knowing that each idea is going to take a lot of work to try and figure out how to incorporate in a way that is her own.
Over time, she incorporates a few of them in her art. Some stick. Others don’t. But she continues to push forward with a process of feeding new ideas into her art and using the results to generate new ideas. Her process results in a new level of sophistication with each passing year.
As a venture capitalist, investing in expansion stage software/Internet companies over more than a decade, I see the same type of process going on industry-wide and in each of the companies that I have been involved with. Ideas that are generated both internally and externally combine to form new and interesting software/Internet products and go-to-market strategies, and the companies and their products get more sophisticated with each passing year.
Matt Ridley nailed the process in his recent TED Talk on “When Ideas Have Sex.” Take a look at this video…
The best companies do a great job incorporating this process into their companies and networks. Whether you are the leading innovator in your product market, a fast follower, or even just commoditizing your product market, you are utilizing these principals.
If you want be one of the best companies, you need to master this process. You need more sex!