How Tech Entrepreneurs Can Generate the Next Big Idea

By TechZone360 Special Guest
Jim McCarthy, CEO & Co-Founder, Goldstar
December 06, 2013

Being an entrepreneur - especially within the demanding realm of technology - requires a delicate balance to ensure one can maintain one of the most important aspects of the job: creativity.

I worked for other people in some great companies for a number of years before starting Goldstar in 2002, but I was an incorrigible rule-bender. Usually, this worked and led to good things: innovations, improvements, and new revenue. But sometimes it just made people mad, or befuddled, or vexed. I never had enough freedom, or so I thought.

But when you’re an entrepreneur, you have more than just freedom. You have an obligation, because whatever there is to be, you’ve got to create.

And the result is that you, my entrepreneurial friend, need an ongoing source of creative ideas. One source, of course, is people. Your friends, family and network provide you ideas, so it’s critical to continue spending time with them and others who aren’t on your work team. Competition and even other businesses spur ideas, but that can get stale. It leads to the “We are the x of y” where “x” is whatever is the hot start-up of the moment, and “y” is the niche you hope to occupy. Anyway, that kind of thinking bears a resemblance to creativity, but only if you don’t look too closely.

These are both excellent places to look for creative source material, but you need more. My suggestion is one that you can easily add to the mix, and, as a really great bonus, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.

Get out to live entertainment frequently

Most entrepreneurs live in cities that pulse with live entertainment, all the time. Music, theater, comedy, sports and a whole bunch of other things dot the map.

So here are the three things I think you should do from now on:

See a play a week, especially from the greats like Shakespeare

Great theater, especially by the true geniuses, gives you the opportunity to see big problems, crises, and interpersonal struggles play out. It’s fiction, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Watch Othello’s vanity and ego take him from the hottest rising star in Venice to a disgraced murderer. Watch Henry the Fifth take his dramatically outnumbered army and motivate them to win the Battle of Agincourt. Watch Shelly 'The Machine' Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross live in deep denial about the changes in his business, only to resort to fraud to try to get out of his slump. Watch these characters and hundreds of others live out plotlines, and see how they handle them.

Go see a game, but watch the coach

Well, don’t watch just the coach. After all, the game, just like business, is about execution, so you’ll have to watch the players, too. But if you pay attention, you’ll notice that certain coaches seem to take wins with them wherever they go. If a great basketball coach like Phil Jackson or Pat Summitt makes big changes to his lineup when the team is losing, what kind of changes does he make? Do his stars sit out more, or do they get the ball more? Does a fire-breathing football coach like Jim Harbaugh keep shouting at his players even when they’re leading by 30 points, or does he shout only when they’re behind, to wake up lethargic players? What’s the body language of the coach, and how does it differ between great coaches and average coaches? 

Coaches are worth watching, because you’re the head coach of your organization. And hopefully your team wins, too.

Get “Immersed”

More and more shows have come down off the stage and become “immersive.” Sleep No More and Then She Fell in New York, Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare in L.A., and a bunch of others have taken the distance between show and audience and reduced it to zero. Part of the fun of walking through the spooky hotel of Sleep No More or the terrifying streets of Nightmare is seeing the reactions of the people around you, your fellow audience members. The excitement is contagious.

If, somehow, you periodically forget that the success of your business is predicated on the response of your customers - or if, for some reason, you begin to doubt how much the little things matter to a person’s experience of your product - go to an immersive show. Immerse yourself in it, and watch the people around you. It’ll make you want your product to be as delightful and surprising as it can be.

So, feed that creativity. It’s the most important tool you’ve got! And live entertainment is constant fuel, always available and always offering something new. Plus, it’s fun. Next time you’re at a show, having a blast, turn to your date and say, “I know it looks like I’m having a good time, but I’m actually working right now.”

Jim McCarthy is the CEO & Co-Founder of Goldstar, the world’s biggest ticket booth making live entertainment a part of everyday life for millions of people. Before launching Goldstar in February 2002, Jim was Vice President of Marketing for venture-backed Kiko, Inc., and previous to that developed highly successful sales products for GeoCities until its acquisition by Yahoo! in 1999. Jim is an organizer and the curator of TEDxBroadway, the annual event which brings together experts from a wide range of fields to create, share, and stimulate dialogue about making Broadway the best it can be. He is a graduate of the Anderson School of Business at UCLA and Harvard University. Follow Goldstar on Twitter @goldstar.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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