Why do we want you to steal our ideas?

Hugh Knowles explains why the Experiments Team wants you to take our ideas – and make them better.

Hugh Knowles18 Sep 2019

Most ideas die in the dark. So rather than hide our ideas away, we are posting them on our site and hoping you might take the ones we aren’t working on right now.

All the ideas we post, we love. Some we don’t have the resources to deliver right now. Some don’t quite fit our priorities. Some we just feel need someone else to run with them.

They might not be for everyone. They are from challenges that make sense for Friends of the Earth's Experiments team. But given they try to tackle challenges we all face we hope that many will resonate.

We have not rigorously tested them all, but they all got people other than us excited. We think they have potential.

Here is a bit more background on why we are doing this:

Firstly, innovation is a numbers game

It is a rather dispiriting truth that innovation is basically a numbers game. You can have amazing teams and incredible processes but if you want to get something new, something different into the world, what really matters is good problem definition and how many different things you try. A huge budget is helpful (cough), but we cannot all be X (Alphabet’s moon-shot arm which used to be called Google X).

This is how we work in the Experiments Team. We imagine our work as a big pipeline (below) and we need a lot of rough ideas to stand a chance of ending up with a great project to run with.  We think about an order of 100 to 1.

Graphic showing the Experiments pipeline from hypotheses to ventures
© Friends of the Earth

You can see some of our more developed ideas here.

Secondly, we need to test more ideas in real world

Everyone can have an idea. What really matters is how quickly you can find a way to test that idea in the outside world. Letting an idea sit in your head, hard drive or meeting rooms for months is pointless. Especially when faced with some rather looming deadlines.

These tests can be as simple as speaking to a few users to get their opinion or putting a blog out describing the idea and seeing how people respond. If you have a small budget, you can use more involved methods such as building a rough prototype people can react to or running user groups.

Exposing the idea in early stages is hard and can make you feel vulnerable but that early feedback is essential. We believe a cheap experiment out in the world is worth far more than an amazing idea in your head.

We try to come up with a lot of ideas and test as many as we can, but we have limited resources. We are hoping that if other people take our ideas then more get tested.

Thirdly, we don’t care where ideas come from or go to

We have an approach that produces ideas. A lot of mediocre ones, some good ones and the occasional cracker. But we welcome ideas from outside and we are always looking to collaborate. Often, we put an idea out in the world because we know we cannot do it alone and we only pursue it if someone else reacts. Sometimes…tumbleweed. Occasionally a flurry of responses.

So, please steal from us

Take the ideas we have put in the ‘Steal from us’ section. Sometimes we might have more information so drop us a line and we will send what we have (Warning: it might be a bit rough and ready). We probably cannot commit to more than that at this stage until you can test the idea and provide feedback that we can all learn from. If it looks promising and you want to work with us then again drop us a line. If you want to plough on ahead then please do so but it would be great if you could credit us in some way.

Good luck.