How to Generate Ideas from Email News Rings, Message Board, and LinkedIn Groups

by Joseph Kennedy

To develop solutions, you need to define what people are having issues with.

One brilliant source of ideas is in relevant forums and pages where people are asking questions about sustainability issues.

I used to be part of an email newsring in a specific sector (Higher Education) for sustainability managers. Most emails started off with "Does anyone know what to do about XYZ..." and you would get a flurry of emails from people who had cracked that problem either with a work around, their own solution or with a commercial solution. 

This email newsring was gold for any innovator or entrepreneur.

Have you got such a thing in your work life?  While you are still in work (you will be leaving work soon if we have anything to do with it)'s a good idea to data mine that email ring or slack group.



Where to look

You can find people asking questions or making complaints about the problems they face in:

  • LinkedIn groups
  • Email news rings
  • Private email groups
  • Quora
  • Forums
  • Message boards
  • Intranet
  • Facebook groups
  • Reddit


How to find a good forum

Step 1: Go to Google and searched forum:niche, for example, if you want to find people interested in Pokemon, search forum:pokemon. Remember to write 'forum' and not 'forums. Google will now show you all of the top forums on the subject!

Step 2: Don't be afraid to register. 99% of these forums will be free to view and free to join, so get involved in the discussion and ask some questions. 

Step 3: Use the search feature to your advantage, with problem searches like

  • "advice about"
  • "I hate"
  • "need help"
  • "does anyone"
  • "looking for"


What to do once you’re there

Go through the group, forum, or wherever you are looking, and mine the data for common issues which crop up. You need to scan for the common themes. You can also usually search for certain keywords related to your area of concern. Look at their questions and responses from others and use them to scrutinise and better define the problem. You can use this method to build a better picture of what’s going on.


Notice the ideas that repeat themselves

As you start to study and observe these information centres, you are going to see the same problems again and again, and often you’ll see responses with the same solutions time and time again too. Using this problem and solution model, you can start to formulate an idea to solve that problem. Do not worry if ideas do not bubble up straight away. This activity is also about getting a general feel for the problems that your peers are facing.


Join our 6 week idea generation and validation email series to learn more:

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