TL;DR: Send an email with abstract statements to encourage idea generation & innovation. Be fun. Be Creative. Be lighthearted. Phrase statements to be abstract instead of leading. Startup passion dies with each new hire.

"Ideas happen when your mind wonders, we’re able to pay attention to the world" - Simon Sinek

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Startups survive on their innovative approach to the market, product or industry. Innovation and idea generation should be at the core of your startup -- and have been since the original founders started the company.

Encouraging idea generation should be a habit within your team.

Providing a stress free and highly communicative culture are foundations for this and something that you sould naturally be striving for - so the next pinnacle step is to encourage pondering amongst your team so that ideas can happen.

Article Focus

Using abstract statements about your startup, product, industry, competitors, culture et. al to encourage reflection within your team.

Article Prerequisites

  • Understand there are different ways to think [1]
  • Understand encouraging abstract thinking is a practice in lecturing [2]
  • Understand you may need to explain the purpose of this abstract exercise clearly to get the best results.

Encourage Innovation: Creating a Pondering Culture in your Startup

...or Is Team Innovation > Technology??


Cloud based technology has changed the game for startups by making scalable infrastructure accessible at almost zero cost to anyone that can code. This means that something other than technology needs to define your startup.

The adage 'Strategy, not technology drives digital transformation' [3] is as true today as it ever was therefore business strategy still remains the key to startup success.

Your startup success comes down to thinking differently about how you go to market, what you do there, what you test, what you learn and how you can innovate.

"Founder's can't scale" - Gail Goodman

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The Founders of a startup can't scale, they instead need to lead, teach others how to lead (and teach others how to teach others to lead!) so that their startup can grow effectively -- this includes building innovation into the thinking processes of the team.

When 'start-ups' turn into 'scale-ups' there's an unconscious mental shift on focusing on the tried and tested processes that have worked in the past. This can be in the form of sticking with the same marketing campaigns, sticking with the same technology stack or sticking with the same team building events that brought that success.

Where things can go wrong is that these processes didn't come about in isolation -- founders at the very beginning had the time to think about the 'why', the 'how' and the 'what' before the startup roller coaster kicked off.

Start a Monthly Email

Get into the routine of sending around a monthly email for a few months. ie. write up a list of 20-30 abstract questions around your own product/industry/competitors -- but send them around in piecemeal (groups of 5 or so) to your team.

ie. encourage a more long term commitment to pondering and see if the email a month later starts to have an impact on people's ideas and thoughts.

Example Questions

Here's some general thought provoking questions so that you can get an idea -- people use these abstract questions to think about themselves and their own lives and to introduce ways to change (innovation!).

  • "If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people -- what would that message be?"
  • "What would you do differently, if you knew nobody would judge you?"
  • "Have you done anything lately worth remembering?"
  • "What's the difference between living and existing?"
  • "What do you hate that you wish you loved?"
  • "If you could re-watch your life, what would you watch again? (and would you enjoy it?)"

Startup Related Thought Provoking Statements/Questions

Here's some thought provoking questions that are themed around startups so that you can use them to send around to your team.

Use these examples below to reflect on questions on your startup. If you come up with any interesting ones pls send them on to me.


  • If we could teach our customers something, what would we teach?
  • What change does our startup want to be remembered for?
  • What comfort zones are we in (as a team, as a startup, as an industry)?
  • What's more important for our customers to think; that we are good or our product is good? [4]
  • If our product was 100% built/functional and no more work was needed. What would we do to 'delight' our customers even more?
  • What would make our customers/users smile more?
  • What questions could our customers/users ask us that we wouldn't want to answer truthfully?
  • If we could pick how our users/customers could lose track of time when using our product, what would it be? ‘
  • What is our ‘Why’, Before our How, Before our What[4:1]
  • if we had no competitors what would we do differently?

Encourage 'thinking' time after 5:00

This will work for the 'morning people' ie. those that tend to focus all their energy early in the work day and then slump/burn out towards the end.

How you can go about encouraging this is to have a 'tools down' policy that starts at 5:00. ie. setup an alert (email/slack/txt) that encourages 'tools down' mindset.

You can use this time to pose an abstract idea that the business is working on or to challenge people into thinking differently about an existing process within the company.

Tools Down

'Tools Down' -- is a useful technique to understand if a member of your team is under stress and if someone is needing help. Tools Down isn't an excuse to stop working - it's a technique to switch into lower energy work (reading, youtube, social networks, documentation). As an example imagine your team during their 'tools down' mode contributes to an onboarding guide for new team members? or if each team member added to the team's 'coding conventions document', or watched an inspirational video together -- overtime these would contribute greatly to knowledge sharing with new people and reducing the learnings other's need to go through.

Nothing is Free

Don't expect instant results from this. Your startup team will be regularly focused on achieving the deadlines, sprint end days and goals of the startup. For pondering and abstract thought to kick in your team needs to be in a stress free environment and have free time to ponder their thoughts.

Thanks for reading

Got any Questions? Ask me on the Advice Page


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