“But you have no silver linings without a cloud.” – Angela Carter

Change sometimes happens fast: in the last 12 months, the Amazon has been left to burn, the Australian bushfires have been devastating, and now we again need to develop new habits and behaviour as a result of COVID-19. The good news is that in light of all of this change, there are vast opportunities to better the world. The global public are listening and ready for new ideas and innovations.

I wanted to share four quick tips with you to unleash your creativity, remove mental blocks, and keep your brains active during this challenging time. I hope these tips help you extra fold in your personal and professional lives to start new businesses, social enterprises, innovation initiatives, learn new skills and enhance your imagination.

STEP 1 Germinate Your Idea 

At the start of every day for 10 mins, follow these steps:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Drink a glass of water
  3. Gather a piece of paper or pen or any other tool to jot down ideas, and think about all the ways you could improve your workflow and methodology today


Smiling businesswoman drinking a glass of water at her desk in the office,taking a break.

Things to ask yourself include: In what ways could you make your life more environmentally friendly? Are there possibilities to make your research  more impactful? How would a business solution improve your workflow or personal life, for example think of a time tracker app or task management tool i.e. Asana or Monday.com? If I launched my social enterprise, how would it support a local NGO?

The benefit of having this intensely focused time to think is to organize the thoughts and ideas you might have floating around in your mind. However, clarity often comes when you step away from a problem. So after you have jotted down some ideas, go and complete another activity like doing some indoor exercises, listening to music, completing another work exercise or finishing your chores.

STEP 2 Add Water, Sunlight, and Nutrients 

Come back to everything you have ideated and take those ideas or scribblings which really resonate with you.

Now comes the time to refine these into problem statements:

A [user role] who feels [negative feeling] about [reason] needs to [step], but faces [obstacle].

Here is an excellent blog written by Dan Brown, co-Founder of Eight Shapes who breaks down how to write a problem statement.

Begin to steer your ideas into problem statements.

The main reason for this is to clarify the assumptions you were making, defining your audience and understanding your greater impact, and to begin to lay down the foundation of a project or program.

You can find you have 8-10 problem statements around one general idea. Keep ideating, playing, testing, and going a bit deeper. Now select one you can focus on before moving forward.

STEP 3 Petal to Petal, Peer-to-Peer 

Back view of business woman talking to her colleagues about business plan in video conference. Multiethnic business team using laptop for a online meeting in video call. Group of buinessmen and businesswomen smart working from home.

Now you can either pick up the phone and call a family friend, but it’s usually best to run these ideas past your peers. The benefit of this is to gather information and feedback on what is sticking, what is resonating, and which solution they are hungry for?

The great aspect of this is to have a safe space for you to share your ideas and to practice your pitching. Ensure you loop in colleagues out of your field, because they usually have the most interesting perspectives and ideas, especially if your goal is to impact a larger population.

Join open and online communities for even more feedback, recruit team members, attend hands-on workshops or write blogs on your process as your idea evolves.

Photo collage of cheerful, excited glad optimistic crowd of different human have toothy beaming smile wear casual clothes isolated over bright multicolored background

To place some metrics around this, when I was creating the idea and concept around Capsule, I created a rough one-page document and then I talked with over 15 individuals who either I had worked with extensively, been managed by, or just interacted. I then started sharing my idea with strangers outside of my existing groups and used their feedback to strengthen my idea.

STEP 4 Make Space for Growth (a.k.a Be The Bamboo) 

Many bamboo stalks on blurred background

At this point, you could have completed this process within a week or a matter of months, but your project or program is ready for a more sturdier ground which could be at your place of work, at a hackathon event or at a local accelerator or initiative, but it should find a home.

I know it seems far fetched to try, but today (April 2020) is the most fertile time to be getting your ideas out there around conservation, environmental sustainability, wildlife protection etc.

Level up your skills for pitching, storytelling, and presenting your ideas in a concise format. Promise yourself that you will try this year and be brave to take the risk. Sign up for programs like Capsule which are designed for catalyzing innovative ideas and bringing them to life. For those who are lucky, you might have the opportunity to see your idea come to life and for those who need a bit more work, you now have the experience to rise to the challenge again.

I share this as a road-map of encouragement. To share how I was able to bring Capsule to life here is a quick run-down:

2019 – 2020 | CAPSULE

Feb-Mar: Capsule idea was germinating and being cultivated

Apr: Feedback + 1:1 Peer Interviews

Apr-May: Initial Capsule Foundation was built

May-Aug: Designing and Building Partnerships, Event Team, Goals, Strategy, Tactics

Aug: Team Adjustment to Core Planning Team

Aug-Dec: Continued Capsule execution across programs + tasks

Jan: Recruitment, Execution of 100-Day Plan

Mar: Pivot due to COVID-19

Apr: New Virtual Implementation Plan 

May: Webinar Programming Series Launch 

Jun: Online Social Sessions Launch

Jun 20-21: Capsule Event 

I guarantee that at no time this process will be anything less than an amazing opportunity to learn more about yourself, your capabilities, and your magic to make the change we need to push for in the coming years. Good luck and don’t give up!

Sarah Sharif, the Founder of Experimental Civics and Capsule. Sharif is a British-American, who holds a successful track record producing impact themed hackathons, building innovation pipelines, and advocating for sustainability. Learn more about her at sarah0sharif.io or experimentalcivics.io