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A Ride on the Creative Process - Dilbert Blog

A Ride on the Creative Process

I know from the comments on this blog that many of you are interested in the creative process. Let me take you for ride in my head. I took this journey yesterday. It is still fresh in my mind so I can explain it.

Most new ideas are combinations of existing ideas. I’ll start by describing the random thoughts that inspired one of the most powerful ideas I have ever had. We’ll get to the idea itself at the end. I think this idea could cut the unemployment rate in half and turbo-charge the entire economy for generations. And the plan could be fully implemented by the people reading this blog.

No government needed. I know you like that part.

The other day I saw a Kickstarter fund for a sincere-looking fellow that wanted to fix his truck and move to a place with better job prospects. I liked his style. I prefer helping people that have a concrete plan. But a Kickstarter fund? It seemed sketchy. I don’t know anything about this guy.

That made me think of Uber. They had the same problem of credibility because the drivers are independent contractors. But it didn’t stop them.

Then I was thinking about eBay. I wasn’t sure why. My subconscious sniffed some eBay connection in all of this. Maybe that would become clear later.

Then I was thinking of unemployment in general, and how the real problem is that people and jobs are in the wrong locations. We don’t have a shortage of good jobs; we have a location problem.

Then I was thinking about an idea I had last year for allowing anyone to create online education courses. Each online teacher might specialize in just one small lesson within a larger curriculum that could be pieced together by the user for the ultimate teaching experience. And over time the best lessons would get voted to the top until the best teachers with the best lesson segments emerged in a sped-up evolution way. I didn’t know at the time what that thought had to do with the guy and his broken truck.

Then I was thinking about new app ideas. I do that often, sometimes for my side job and sometimes just with friends. Whenever I see a problem I automatically wonder if an app can fix it.

Then it was Veterans Day. I was thinking how shitty it would be to return home from the service and try to find work.

All of those thoughts swirled around in my head for half a day and then went off wherever ideas go when you are not actively thinking about them.

Later that day, the ideas returned. But this time they were not individuals. They had somehow combined into a new idea – a hybrid of several ideas. And the idea presented itself to me in the form of an app, probably because my mind is organized that way at the moment.

If might be the most important idea of my life. If not, I’m sure you will set me straight in the comments.

Suppose we build an app that allows anyone to sponsor specific part of people’s plans for moving to where the good jobs are.

Let’s take the example of the individual that wanted to fix his truck and move where the jobs are plentiful. If the app existed, he would open it and start piecing together his plan.

He might start by specifying his existing skill set. That would bring up a map of the country with glowing hot spots showing where his skills are most in demand. Once he selects a target location, he specifies in the app what he needs to make it happen.

  1. $5,000 for truck repair
  2. A place to stay at the destination end for one month (est.)
  3. Help putting together a good resume.
  4. $1,000 for travel and living expenses

The app would then allow anyone to offer help for any part of the plan. But the plan would not become active until all the parts were pledged. And let’s say a minimum requirement for the job-seeker is that he has a Facebook page and accepts as friends any serious helpers so they can check out his situation and maybe message his other friends to ask about character.

If the individual needs job training, the cost of training could be in his plan. That sort of plan has a longer horizon but it is still appealing because training works.

Each of us has different resources to offer this imagined job-seeker. I might have a spare room he could use for a month in return for mowing my lawn. You might be good at editing and improving resumes. Maybe someone in his town can fix his truck for the price of parts. Maybe someone has the truck parts he needs. For people that don’t have any form of transportation, maybe someone is driving in the direction you are headed and wants to share gas expenses. Maybe I can’t afford to fund all of the expenses for this particular job-seeker but I am happy to kick in $10 if other people do.

And let’s say multiple people can bid on any part of a plan in which they want to help. I might offer a couch to sleep on for a month but you outbid me with a full guest room for two months. The plan can continue improving as it fills in its holes.

Once the journey begins, the app updates contributors on the physical location of the job-seeker and how the plan is going. The job-seeker could post photos of the journey to keep sponsors in the loop. If the plan falls apart at any point, such as not having a promised place to stay at the destination end, an alert goes out to everyone in the target area that a priority job-seeker is nearby, so someone can jump in to help.

Are you not yet convinced that this is a great idea? That’s okay because I saved the best part for last.

The risk in this plan is not so much in the execution of the app, because we know how to make software of this type. The risk is in awareness of the app and in getting enough people excited about being sponsors. If we don’t solve the awareness problem, the quality of the app is irrelevant.

So let’s solve that.

Let’s make the app for veterans only, at least to start. Later, if it works as hoped, it would be available for the general public.

A veterans-only job-finding app would be instantly popular. If I tell you that a random guy needs money for his truck, you shrug. If I tell you that a returning vet needs help with a concrete plan to get a good job, your wallet flies out of your pocket before your hand even touches it.

So we launch the service for vets first, and get all the goodwill and energy that the effort deserves. Later, when you release the app for the general public, you keep vets on some sort of priority plan within the app so they continue getting preferential attention.

I think you would need to build this app as a commercial enterprise just to attract the talent you need. And it should have a big name attached to it to scare away any smaller players that would muddy the waters. (My name isn’t big enough for that space.)

I’m willing to put up $25K seed money for this app. But I would need to see a serious team in place to execute.

One of my systems for happiness involves always working on at least one project that can change the world for the better. This is my contribution for today.

Would it work?

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Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     
Author of this book 
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily
Twitter for Scott: @ScottAdamsSays