John Carmack's Five Part Idea Generation System

John Carmack's Five Part Idea Generation System

Coming up with creative ideas is tough enough as it is, but coming up with good ideas is even harder. Everyone has their own little system for this, and in a blog post, Amjad Masad shares what he learned from programmer John Carmack, most famous for his work on games like Quake and Doom. Photo by Joey Gannon.

Masad paraphrases an internal talk Carmack gave at Facebook last year, which describes Carmack's "anti-fragile system" of idea generation. It's essentially a five-part system to help differentiate the good ideas from the bad while dealing with failure. Here's Masad paraphrasing:

  1. You are working on a problem and you get an idea and with it the initial idea high.
  2. You should instantly try to defeat your idea — think of all the ways it could not work, test it out, put it under stress.
  3. If the idea survives the brutal scrutiny then it has legs for further investigations or implementation.
  4. If the idea is implemented and it works then that's great.
  5. If the idea fails the scrutiny or implementation you can quickly move on to the next idea without feeling the lows because you haven't obsessed or talked about it i.e. it's not your pet idea.

It's not exactly anything we haven't seen before and mostly boils down to "learn from failure", but it's nice to have a systematic approach. Head over to Masad's site for more information on Carmack's presentation.

John Carmack on Idea Generation [Amjad Masad]

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