Don’t Worry About Being Original, Be Genuinely Useful

Sometimes we get caught up in trying to create ideas that are truly, 100% original.  And yet this can prove difficult due to the very nature of the web, where on some days it seems as if everything possible has already been done (even though this is not true).  There are an incredible amount of Facebook, iPhone and other platform-specific applications churned out daily.  There are even more e-commerce businesses, blogs, newspapers, and niche-specific social networks vying for your attention.

Saturation in terms of raw numbers is an understatement.

From a user perspective, there is no reason to feel overwhelmed – by now most have a personal set of tools they use to get the content they want daily in an efficient manner – and those who don’t already will soon.  Turning the volume up or down is easy – we’re in total control of information flow from a consumption perspective, something that has turned influence in a new direction.

From a creator/idea-generation perspective, it’s the opposite – and can sometimes feel like a saturation point has been reached.  If you get to this point, that’s actually good news – it means you have been exposed to enough that you can put everything in perspective and elevate your own ideas to the next level.

If you get to the point where you’re starting to worry if your projects are truly original or your words have already been said before, you need to realign your thought processes.  Here’s a few ways to get started:

Stop worrying about creating things that are 100% original

Worrying or wondering about originality in ideas is time wasted, because whether something is completely original or not has no bearing on if something will actually be successful.  Originality is overrated, creativity and usefulness are underrated.  Successful ideas are not always original, in many cases they are improved clones of something else, but who cares if it is effective.

Let your unique perspective and industry expertise be your guide

Your opportunity is creating solutions from your unique perspective and vision in a way that solves a specific problem like no one else can.  The personal way you interpret the world is in many cases what produces the best results.  Your thought processes, refined from years of experience in your niche, allow you to see things from a unique and useful lens.  Ideally you are involved in multiple interests and passions in life and can form a hybrid view of the world, simultaneously drawing from multiple areas of expertise.  Interesting results always happen at the intersection.

Refine as you push forward

Sometimes you’re not sure the path that needs to be taken, and that’s okay.  Just get started with your best thinking and refine as you move forward.  In many cases, the best ideas stem from tangents or side projects.  Twitter was the result of a pet project, and it is a huge success.  Digg was started in a garage.  Both are constant works in progress.  Just getting your idea out there is sometimes the hardest step, but it is in many cases the most important.

Keep a personal knowledge base

If you’ve got a personal knowledge base like a blog or even something as simple as a page on delicious aggregating ideas for reference/reflection, having one area that maps your path of personal growth is vital.  Something like this allows you to document your own path of development.  If you ever feel lost, spend a few hours starting at the beginning and follow it to the end.  After this, you’ll know exactly where you came from, where you left off and your thinking should be re-aligned.  Now your next steps should be clear.

Look at the landscape

Sometimes all it takes is you to step back and take a global view of an industry or niche to really start to see what is missing and step in and provide the answer.  You’ll start to see the areas that are ignored, something that indicates an opportunity for you to fill the void.  Find something from years ago that is an aging solution and still the only option.  At that point, you’ll be well-positioned to map out something modern that may not necessarily be original, but builds upon where others stopped and takes advantages of new technologies/trends.

If you find a formula that works, don’t be afraid to keep using it

You should continue to use a successful formula so long as it is producing the desired returns.  Finding a great formula and stopping is analogous to leaving a perfectly good oasis in the middle of a endless journey through a desert.  There will certainly be another oasis eventually, but you will have to work to get to it.  Smarter to stay with what works for now, while devising a strategy for the best direction to head next when your current source runs dry.


Many will try and push you to be original in your ideas all the time, however there is absolutely nothing wrong with building upon your own ideas over time or improving upon the works of others.  In many cases this is a much smarter play.  Trying too hard to be original never works as well as simply finding the best solution from a perspective that is neutral to originality.

Related posts from The Future Buzz

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Related posts from around the web

A Tale of Two Syndromes (Strategic Public Relations)

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The Reasons Why Other People Ignore You (Broadcasting Brain)

post image credit:  stuck in customs (modified under cc 2.0 license)