DC entrepreneur Samuel Sanders won an IndieReader award for his new book on ideation

With "Your Next Big Idea," Sanders is providing a guide to innovation. The founder looked to make it actionable for readers.

Samuel Sanders, the author of "Your Next Big Idea" and founder of Heard. (Courtesy photo)

When it comes to ideation, DC founder Samuel Sanders thinks potential entrepreneurs need to head back to the basics.

“We like to talk about innovation. It’s so buzzwordy that we don’t always actually explain what that means,” Sanders said. “We want to be creative, we want to be innovative, but a lot of times there’s no real definition with that, or process.”

So Sanders set out to provide the answer in prose. He’s the author of “Your Next Big Idea: Improve Your Creativity and Problem-Solving,” a book on ideation that was announced as the IndieReader award winner in the business category this week. The 26-year old is also the founder of Penn Quarter-based Heard, a software application that helps local governments and companies get feedback on policies and ideas. He also cofounded Wundershirt, a company that clothed athletes in the 2016 Olympics, and held roles at Cognizant and North Star Games.

The D.C.-based founder told that he set out to write a book to bring the conversation around ideation past talking about big-name tech companies.

“We always talk about the big obvious players. We think Google, we think Amazon, we think Facebook — the big companies. But in reality, that kind of does a disservice because they’re already the big guys,” Sanders said. “So really we don’t talk about where the company was formed, how they came up with the idea for the company and that’s really the missing piece.”

Sanders said “Your Next Big Idea,” which hit the market last month, is a guidebook that walks readers through the process of coming up with their next creative solution. It includes exercises to practice what they’ve learned, and encourages readers to jump around to different chapters based on where they are in the process.

Sanders has been working on the book since 2017. He set out to create a book that was less of a memoir, as many business books are, and more about the reader. He self-published the book, which he says covers the whole scope of generating ideas.

<em>The cover of "Your Next Big Idea." (Courtesy image) </em>

The cover of “Your Next Big Idea.” (Courtesy image)

“Ideas need to be holistic in order for it to be really successful,” Sanders said. “So there are a lot of people that have the ability to come up with lots of really random ideas and that’s great, and there are a lot of people that actually have a really impressive ability to identify which ideas work, and that’s also great. But really, it needs to be a whole scope and sometimes it’s one person, sometimes it’s multiple different people.”

As noted in the book, Sanders said founders interested in finding a new idea need to start with identifying problem points. He frequently suggests keeping an eye out for people discussing something they hate or are annoyed by, because that frequently leads to a real problem with a potential solution. Then, he said, the full ideation process isn’t complete until you’ve spoken to people and figured out whether or not an idea is going to work.

Sanders added that the book takes a lot of its philosophies from Heard and vice versa. He hopes that both his company and Your Next Big Idea can help bring the best ideas out of the community. He’s already gotten some positive feedback from Reddit users, and eventually would like to produce an audiobook of the text.

“Hopefully I can spark people’s next big idea and then on top of that, working on Heard to try and grow that,” he said. “…Especially now that it’s getting to the post-pandemic time where things are returning to normal.”

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