Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

How an idea is born… and what happens with it next?


Yesterday I had an idea. One of many this week. I’m an entrepreneur after all so I have ideas all the time. But this was different, because in a span of one day it went the full circle from inception, through development and it’ll most probably be implemented pretty soon. And the best part is that this idea wasn’t completely new. It was more of an intersection of several ideas that came before it. But finally it all clicked together. Here’s how it went down.

It all starts with frustration…

Apparently most of my ideas start from some kind of a frustrating moment. Hell, Nozbe was born out of my inability to get myself organized and the stress that came with it. The programmers on my team have a term for it: frustration driven development. It’s when they see something that annoys them and they just can’t stop until they’ve fixed it.

Yesterday was like that. In the early morning I had a session of shallow work when I was just basically catching up with the backlog of emails and performing some tasks associated with all of this. I wasn’t very happy with my work so I decided to console myself with a cup of coffee.

Sipping a fresh brew of coffee gave me the much needed distance and perspective to realize why I wasn’t happy with myself. I faced the frustration. I realized what exactly I wasn’t happy with. I knew what it was.

But I saw no solution on a horizon just yet. I came to terms with the frustration and embraced it as part of my work. For now.

A moment of random inspiration comes next…

It was a short day at my daughters’ school so I went to pick them up in the middle of the day. On my way to school I was listening to podcasts as I often do. The hosts of this particular show were discussing a problem which was kind of similar to the one I was experiencing in the morning.

What an odd coincidence.

Later they argued that a certain part of that problem was not solvable and they went ahead to explain how they eventually attacked the issue from a completely different angle.

I didn’t care for their solution as it wasn’t what would help me. So I focused on their thesis that this problem wasn’t solvable.

What do you mean it can be solved?! Challenge accepted!

How an idea is born… and what happens with it next? 2

Then came a moment of thinking…

Now I had more data. The frustration. The problem. The unsolvable solution. The challenge. This got me thinking. And I just couldn’t let it go.

I started seeing a glimpse of an idea. Some old ideas related to it popped back up in my head. The remix was happening. I started picking up parts of each of these ideas and gluing them together in my head. I got excited. I was witnessing a shape of an idea emerging in my head.

I was quickly ready to talk to someone about it. So I called up our lead designer, Hubert. We haven’t talked in a while anyway and now I had a perfect excuse to reach out.

Thinking out loud shapes the idea further…

I described the idea to Hubert. I told him the whole story behind it. From the initial frustration to where I’m at now. He quickly picked up on this and started to ask very good questions. He brought back some additional ideas to the mix. Some of them we discussed in the past but they never quite went anywhere. As with any product, at Nozbe we have lots of ideas that we shelved for future consideration.

After I finished describing it to him and we had our first back and forth, we went over the idea again.

This time we both had much more clarity as to what this idea really is. He started taking notes. Lots of notes. And we kept talking, kept repeating things to make sure we both got the idea right.

We looked at our Nozbe Teams portfolio of options, we referred back to 17 commandments of work to make sure this idea is in sync with what we really believe in. We also realized that a few things need to happen first before this idea could potentially be implemented. But it felt right. If felt like a natural development of the app that we didn’t see coming before.

The idea turned into a possibility.

What happens next?

Now it’s all up to our process. We will discuss it on one of our upcoming weekly design meetings. Hubert will write the idea up for all the participants to review it and comment on it before the meeting and then we’ll fight over it.

If the idea is really as good as I think it is, after a few iterations and tweaks it’ll be added to our portfolio of options for one of the future versions of Nozbe Teams.

Judging by how much needs to be done before this idea is ready, it will be quite a few months before it’s finally implemented.

But I’ll wait. I trust the process. And most of all, I hope when it’s finally there, it’ll solve my problem and relieve me of this particular frustration forever!

So what’s the idea?

No spoilers today. Sorry, but I won’t tell you just yet. You’ll learn in due time.

After all, this post isn’t about the idea itself. It’s about the process of turning a moment of frustration with a situation of feeling challenged and mixing it up with past bad or shelved ideas and thinking… into something potentially really good.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it when it’s finally in the app about to be released. If it’s as good as I think it is, you’ll love it. Maybe you’ll even consider it a game-changer. Time will tell.

Oh man, I really do love my job.

How an idea is born… and what happens with it next?

Thursday, December 10, 2020 /idea/