A day that passes without exercising the mind is a day wasted.

What is a thought experiment?

It’s a directed brainstorm. Thoughts from all over the map are collected into something more tangible and put into writing. Some of my favorite thought experiments are thinking of product and service ideas, software architectures, or different ways to construct a business.

A recent thought experiment saw the birth of www.easyfitnessfuel.com, a simple service offering the delivery of nutritious fitness training snacks every month.

Another experiment created www.kcphototutor.com, a service to provide in-home photography tutoring. You’ll notice that it’s remarkably similar to easyfitnessfuel! That’s because a thought experiment doesn’t have to be perfect or flashy or even result in the next big thing.

Why conduct thought experiments?

The purpose is not to get rich quick. The point is to expand your mind and promote creative thinking. Especially in an industry like software development, creativity is essential for determining the best solution for specific problems. What’s the best way to drive creativity? Free thinking.

How do I conduct my own thought experiment?

  1. Think about the various things that you do in your life. Do you make crafts? Do you work in an office? Do you have children? Chances are, you do a lot of things.
  2. Pick something that you really enjoy doing. I love to bike, so perhaps I will try to come up with something related to cycling.
  3. Think about something that could be better about what you love to do. For cycling, I get annoyed with all the different battery packs that come with various headlamps. They each have their own form factory and none of the plugs are compatible.
  4. Think of a solution! What if all of my lights were wired the same and could operate from the same battery pack? What if there were adapters that could mate a high-powered battery pack connect to multiple lights at the same time?
  5. Create a name and slogan for your new solution. “Bike Power Block: power all of your lights with the same battery!”
  6. Craft a website. It doesn’t have to be real, but make a website that touts the features of your new solution. Check out examples above.
  7. Market. See if you can drive traffic to your website and generate some buzz about the idea. Post on twitter, facebook, and google+. If your idea is a good one, you’ll know right away.

Victory!

Even if you don’t get any traffic, you’ve completed the objective! Remember, the point isn’t to come up with something that will get you rich. It’s about expanding your mind so that in the future when you are faced with that challenging task, you can think outside the box and come up with a unique solution.