How to Develop Your Ideas Exponentially

Posted by Donald Latumahina

Believe it or not, ideas develop exponentially. The more ideas you have, the more ideas you will generate, both in term of quantity and quality. In human history, we have a phenomenon called technological acceleration. Do you know that the technological advancements in the last century is more than those in the thousand years of previous history combined? That happens because innovations and ideas develop exponentially. Now I will show you why.

If I have two ideas – A and B – I can only derive one new idea from those which is AB. If I have three ideas – A, B, and C – I can derive four new ideas which are AB, AC, BC, and ABC. If I have four ideas – A, B, C, and D – I can then derive eleven new ideas which are AB, AC, AD, BC, BD, CD, ABC, ABD, ACD, BCD, and ABCD.

To give you clearer picture of the exponential effect, here are the numbers above and some more:

  • 2 ideas generate 1 new ideas.
  • 3 ideas generate 4 new ideas.
  • 4 ideas generate 11 new ideas.
  • 5 ideas generate 26 new ideas.
  • 6 ideas generate 57 new ideas.
  • 7 ideas generate 120 new ideas.

This numbers help explain technological acceleration. Innovations in the last century is more than all those in the previous history combined because the recent civilization has more “raw ideas” and “raw innovations” to begin with.

The same thing applies to your personal life. The more ideas you have, the more new ideas you will get. The virtuous cycle begins, and your ideas will develop exponentially.

How can you start this virtuous cycle and develop your ideas exponentially? Here is a key characteristic of ideas:

Ideas are cross-pollinating

The example above gives us good illustration. A and B are two different ideas, but if we cross pollinate them by interconnecting them, we will get a new idea which is AB. So:

The key to develop new ideas is getting different ideas and then interconnecting them.

Here are some simple steps you can do:

  1. Develop multiple passions
    This step gives you the different ideas you need. I’ve written that the way to live a rich life is by developing portfolio of passions. Don’t narrow yourself to only one passion. Expand yourself and develop your multiple passions. If you are too focused to only one area, it is unlikely that you will develop fresh ideas for that area. Remember that ideas are cross-pollinating. You need ideas from different fields which can enrich one another. Plant and grow different flowers in your garden of life, and they will cross-pollinate.
  2. Be observant
    Now that you are developing multiple passions to get different ideas, you need to be observant to catch those ideas. Instead of passively waiting for ideas to come and catch your attention, you should actively search them in your daily life. Be hungry to catch the hidden ideas in your daily experiences. Never let the ideas in your surroundings go unnoticed, even if they try to hide from you.
  3. Always write down you the ideas you get
    Once you catch an idea, never let it go. Capture them permanently by writing them down. You should do it as soon as possible because some ideas can easily disappear within one minute or less. For this reason I always bring a piece of paper and a pen wherever I go (see 4 Simple Ways to Never Lose Your Ideas). When I get an idea, I will quickly write them down in the paper. I don’t want to risk losing that idea.
  4. Review your ideas regularly
    This is just as important as writing the ideas. What’s the use of writing the ideas if you never review them? This simple step greatly helps you interconnect your ideas. Reviewing your ideas makes them stick in your memory and makes them ready to be cross-pollinated with other ideas.
    Later when you read something or encounter something in your  daily life, you may suddenly remember, “Wait. I can apply this to that, right?” And there a new idea is born.
Categories: Innovation, Thinking

Please use your real name and note that I reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

  • Kim Roach

    Hey Donald,

    Excellent article! I especially like the idea of writing and reviewing your ideas on a regular basis. I think interconnecting your ideas is crucial to developing your creativity and higher-level thinking.

  • Donald Latumahina

    Thanks, Kim! I agree, interconnecting ideas is crucial for creativity and higher-level thinking. This is something I’m learning now. I’m glad we can learn together :).

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    Hei man,

    These are new to me.

    I shall think more now.

    Great article !

    Calvin Chin

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  • Joseph Bernard

    Hi Donald, another great blog. Ideas to grow more ideas. I think of myself as open to inspiration and because I nurture that idea, I feel constantly inspired. I love brainstorming because it is has a cascading effect as it opens me in multiple directions to be inspired, t be filled with ideas. Ideas, inspiration and insight is essential to making a difference in the world. As Einstein stated, “we cannot resolve problems from the same level of consciousness that created them.” We must be able to rise above. Joseph at

  • Donald Latumahina

    Thanks, Calvin!


    Ideas, inspiration and insight is essential to making a difference in the world.

    I completely agree. To make a difference we need to act, but to act effectively we need the ideas, inspiration and insight.

  • Fran

    I agree that ideas develop exponentially. The fact that it took a long time before any upgrade to the newly discovered light bulb came up and today it only takes several days or even hours to upgrade it clearly shows that it is indeed exponentially.

  • Alan

    Great post. Ideas are not easy and It’s hard to come up with especially if we are just starting with it. But once it has started, we only need to be commited in that area inorder to come up with different ideas.

  • Donald Latumahina

    Good example! The light bulb case clearly shows that ideas develop exponentially. I’m sure that the same thing applies to many other inventions as well.

    I agree, the most difficult part is the beginning. Once we can go through it things will become easier.

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    The brain is a muscle and like any other muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. I know a great many “serial entrepreneurs”; their ideas flow faster and stronger as time goes on.

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  • Matthew Cornell

    *Loved* the article – thanks! Being observant is a great one – the essence of genius…

  • Donald Latumahina

    Thanks, Matt! “The essence of genius” is a great way of describing it, and I agree with you. A genius often notices something overlooked by others.

    It reminds me of the story of Richard Feynman who watched a wobbling plate in cafetaria and got an idea which eventually earned him the Nobel Prize.

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  • Serafino Raimondo

    oh we didn’t care,we made it very clea. Serafino Raimondo.

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  • Adrian Hedley

    The concept is very interesting and I tend to agree. I would also add that being consistent is also very important. How many times do we have a great idea, we are very excited about it, start working on it, and then something happens that puts us of track. Voila, chances are we don’t get back to it and that momentus is lost.

    I think mindmaps will definitely help to organise and even jot down ideas. When i feel like my brain is exploding with ideas, even simple ones, I draft a mindmp on paper and then create its digital version. I noticed times and times again that new ideas do come up spontaneously when i do them.

    A digital mindmap does take longer to create, but its definitely worthed for many reasons mainly:

    Can be shared/transferred easily.
    You can change/add to it anytime.
    Not limited to your paper size.
    More difficult to lose therefore your ideas are safe.
    You can store it in your web mailbox, just in case your hard disk fails.

    I have recently started doing mindmaps again, but this time time in a smarter way. I had used mindmaps to help me in my University studies, and they are greate knowledge retention tools. but because I tend to lack consitancy, I stopped using them. I also limited myself to use paper, making it harder to go back something later on.

    This is how i do it now:

    Fill brain with ideas
    Draft mindmap on paper
    Create digital version
    Send it to my gmail account
    Repeat Process

  • Donald Latumahina

    Thanks for your sharing, Adrian! I’m always glad to learn how people brainstorm and generate ideas, and your experience is a valuable resource to learn from.

    I usually use outlines in OneNote to do my brainstorming and rarely use mind maps, but I think I will give mind mapping another try.

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  • Gautam Asaf

    they only wanna do you dir. Gautam Asaf.

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  • Parvinder Singh Wazir

    I have an idea in my mind….but not able to give the practical shape to it. How to present it??
    Kindly share few points


  • rabiu kama

    how can i generate ideas?