Innovative thinking is no child’s play, and believe me it’s also not as difficult as you think either! Being an innovative thinker would have you try out a whole lot of things. As the saying goes, “you have to kiss a lot of frogs to identify the prince.” Someone once asked Sam Horn (public speaker) this question “I’m one of those idea-a-minute people. My problem is, I can’t tell which are worth pursuing and which aren’t. Any suggestions on how to differentiate between a run-of-the-mill idea and one that will make money?”

I’m quite sure there are a number of us with such questions in mind but not necessarily with the opportunity to be in such a seminar and to that end; I will bring you five timeless criteria to help you know if your ideas are worth the while.


The very nature of an innovative idea is that it advances or adds to what already exists. If it simply duplicates what is already available; it’s an observation not an idea.

See this example of an INNOVATIVE idea?

Oscar Ekponimo’s work is one work I would term as “innovative” any day, any time. The young Nigerian software engineer created the Chowberry web app which allows poor people to purchase soon-to-expire goods at a discount price from top supermarkets around Lagos and Abuja creating a pretty-much win-win for both parties. That way, the supermarkets don’t lose much since they have to dispose expired goods anyway and on the other hand, it’s great value for the poor since the prices of the goods are subsidized for them—mind you the goods are still in good shape!

Read also:Five young African innovators you must know about.


The earning potential of an idea can be determined by an almost mathematical equation. The bigger the problem: the more urgent the need; the more unique your solution to that problem or need; the more value your idea will deliver; the more people will urgently want it; and the more they’re willing to pay for it.

A fascinating article in Bloomberg proves this point. It reported that Facebook was valued at 201.6 billion dollars as of September 2014. In 2015, CNN announced Facebook’s market value was $245billion (more than WalMart’s). On Feb. 1, 2016, Fortune Magazine reported that Facebook is now valued at $315billion. That’s an amazing feat for a company that’s only been around since 2004 and started trading on Wall Street in 2012.

Which is all rather astonishing when you remember Facebook was founded by a college student. Mark Zuckerberg was sitting in his dorm room and thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat for college students to have a type of online yearbook?”

Zuckerberg’s idea was simple – make it easy for people to set up their own online page to communicate with friends; share photos and videos, meet like-minded people, find out what’s going on, connect with and join groups of people who have common interests. More than a BILLION people use Facebook every single day, for an average of 20 minutes daily. Why is it so popular?

Well, it does a superlative job of serving a purpose, fulfilling a need, and delivering immediate relevant value. As one member says, “It’s the one-stop shop for all my social needs. It’s where all my friends hang out. There’s no reason to leave.”

Talk about delivering relevant value, easy access and constant contact with people who care about the same things you do! No wonder this idea has turned into a multi-billion-dollar commodity that has scaled at an unprecedented pace.


This can be one of the most challenging steps of the process. It’s one thing to have an idea you understand. It’s another to be able to get it across in a way other people can understand it. Simply said, if they don’t get it, you won’t get it. If people can’t instantly grasp what your idea is about, they won’t relate to it, remember it, want it or refer it … which means even if your idea is brilliant, it has little chance of gaining traction, getting funded and breaking out.


The fourth criterion is that your concept can be turned into something concrete. The intangible needs to be turned into something tangible. The abstract needs to become empirical. Ideas in your head help no one. They don’t have the power to make a positive difference for you and others until you transform them into a real-world offering. I’ve encountered countless individuals who had a “big idea,” but never did anything with it. Someone once said, “Average people have great ideas, but only legends have great execution.”

13-year-old Jack McShane lived across from New Orleans’ City Park. Unfortunately, the park was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting floods. City officials ended up abandoning the park because they had limited funds and were busy re-building infrastructure elsewhere. Jack had grown up playing in the park and was bothered by it being so overgrown and unusable. He was looking at it one Saturday and thought, “Somebody ought to do something about it.”

Then he realized, “I’m as much as somebody as anybody. I ought to do something about it.” He took his family lawn-mower out of the garage, walked across the street and started mowing. People complimented him for his efforts so he recruited some friends to help out. One of his friends was called Ron so they called themselves the Mow-Rons.

They even came up with a slogan, “The Mow-Rons are in City Park. The idiots are in City Hall.” That edgy slogan got Jack’s cause a lot of national media attention. He had second thoughts about the slogan and after brainstorming; they came up with the name:

Weeding by Example.

The media is always looking for feel-good, human interest stories. Jack was featured on CBS Evening News, scaling visibility and donations for their non-profit and transforming it from a “gimmick” into an inspiring and successful model of social entrepreneurialism.


The world is moving fast and so are the trends in it. We live in a time of civilization known as the knowledge worker/innovative age, so you would want to ask yourself if your idea is trending and current. If perhaps your idea doesn’t really seem to be the trending type, you can also look for a way to transform that old school idea into something that can be appreciated by the present generation. After all, innovation is remotely a transformation of that which already exists.

As you ponder on your innovative ideas, remember these words;

“To be inventive, you have to be ready to fail”

-Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO


Don’t forget to share with friends if you have found this article to be useful.



solomon Author

I’m Solomon Onu Idenyi: a writer and public speaker. I’m really glad you came around. I sincerely hope you do come around often—I wouldn’t be here not for you! is website that not only promotes education and innovation but also showcases young and bustling entrepreneurs and innovators across Africa. We would love to know your ventures and advertise for you! So go ahead and contact us today!


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