Idea Stage Process



The purpose of this document is to serve as a comprehensive resource for one to lean on when they are in the earliest stage of bringing an idea from consciousness into form. Much has been studied and shared on the nuts and bolts of starting something new, but little has focused on the subtle energetics of wise and responsible innovation.

Congratulations! There is an idea inside of you that wants to be born (whether a tech startup, nonprofit, media artifact, event, or other). What a beautiful thing :)

Before racing ahead and walking the conventional startup route, take a moment to pause and consider the ways in which the HOW you go about your next steps could be more awesome for all involved. Because whatever happens at this sensitive early stage will naturally have an outsized impact on what unfolds.

There’s a lot here. Curated questions, practices, templates. Play with what resonates, ignore what isn’t applicable. If you are exploring an idea with others, it might be helpful to review this document together.

We’ll lightly lean on the birthing metaphor, inspired by our favorite Business Birthing Handbook: A Theory of Trimesters.

💥 Conception

There was a time before the moment an idea surfaced, and a time after. In many cases it can be challenging to pinpoint the exact moment, because that moment was only made possible because of things that happened before that, and before that, going all the way back…


If the muse has visited, soak up the goodness! Receiving a powerful vision, whether in a dream or a sacred journey or a simple white-boarding session, can be one of the greatest joys in life. Feelings of potentiality, beauty, divinity. Try to be as present as you can be for this special gift. Consider expressing gratitude for the idea, if that feels natural.

For more on the sacredness of vision, listen to The Emerald Podcast episode For The Intuitives.

Enjoy the special moment while it lasts!

Express Artistically

It may be tempting to write down all the things ASAP, even in the middle of such an awe-inspiring experience. Our ability to put ideas into words is a remarkable skill, and also one that can be limiting. Ideas don’t necessarily come to us as words, but rather a combination of senses. Perhaps feelings too.

Consider waiting hours or even days, and instead playing with more artistic forms of expression: doodle, watercolors, graphic design, music, dance... Expressing an idea through more “right brain” activities can reveal more aspects of the vision, and offer a more effective “key” to return to the experience at a later time.

Resist the impulse to document with words. And when you do sit down to write it down, write your heart out ;) Don’t rush to write it all down!

Let It Be

In a culture that places such a premium on speed and productivity, slowing down becomes a radical act. Gotta hustle! Gotta be first! Gotta show results!

What’s the rush?

If slowing down and waiting is an edge for you, give it a shot and notice what happens. See if you’re still interested in this idea in 90 days. Or a year. Or three. Perhaps you aren’t ready, or the world isn’t ready, or it’s just not what is required of you right now. Or perhaps the idea reveals more of itself in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have happened had you ran with the first hit.

Avoid sharing the idea too far and wide, not because of the risk of theft (later we will encourage sharing), but because the idea can further calcify into the words you use to describe it, limiting the breathing room it might otherwise enjoy during this time.

Don’t spring into action immediately


Note: If you are far well beyond the conception stage, it’s never too late to reconnect with your original vision, relish it, express it artistically, and give it some time and space.

🌱 First Trimester

[Preamble here - do the htings that nourish you, don’t rush, be reflective…]

This phase is a great time to sit with some bigger questions that can guide the path forward in a rich and insightful way. Set a timer for 60 minutes and journal on the following questions:


What are the different forms/mediums this idea could be expressed through? Perhaps it isn't a technology business, but an education nonprofit, or an essay, or a one time experiment, or nothing at all. How do your life experiences and motivations bias you towards the form you currently envision? Is there a lighter weight form you can experiment with first?


What has humankind learned about this idea throughout time? Imagine being part of a rich lineage that has wrestled with this aspect of life since time immemorial, offering a deep well of guidance to draw from. Who are the wisdom keepers in this domain, and what do they know? Who has worked on similar concepts, and what did they learn? Who has been impacted by this idea in the past, and how? What steps could you take to ensure you understand and engage with those people, to be sure you know their perspectives?


What learnings from past projects do you want to keep in mind as you begin this new one?

It’s amazing how one can think they have learned a lessons, and then life presents them a similar situation some time later, and all the learning has gone out the window! In a hyper abstracted culture, we might start dozens of new projects or relationships without ever pausing to reflect on what we learned from the last one, and how we might set ourselves up to make different choices the next go around!

See: Circular Time workshop.

[Autobiography in five short chapters]


Are you prepared to steward this idea?

In what ways are you prepared? In what was are you not prepared? Is this yours to do? Where does this idea fall in your Ikigai? How does it relate to your positioning in the web of life? Is now the right time? Who would you need to be to bring this into the world in a good way? What skills and resources do you wish you had in place? What needs cleaning up in your life? What biases, blind spots, desires, motivations and intentions may influence your decisions and actions? How are you working to explore, understand, and resolve these? What’s in your learning journey? It is totally okay, and likely honorable and wise, to not act on this idea at all, or at least to wait.

See: Questions for Self Reflection


How do you want to contribute to bringing this idea into form?

What role(s) do you want to play? Do you not want to play? Which aspects of the process are most nourishing, joyful, and interesting to you? Is there somebody else already working on this that you could explore collaboration with? What kind of lifestyle do you want to maintain or shift into while working on this?


What is the relationship between this idea and the great challenges of our time?

Not everyone needs to be trying to solve climate change or polarization. Nobody has to do anything good/green/impact/regenerative/etc at all. But such areas of society certainly need all the support they can get by smart and wise people. Does your idea connect to any of the UN SDG's, and if so, how might it tie into existing efforts? Imagine sitting in the sun at 70: how might you feel about your grandchildren knowing that in these dynamic times, you decided to pour your energy into this idea?


What are you not seeing?

Imagine your idea at the scale of 1 billion people. What are all the things that could go wrong (Nth order consequences, bad actors, imbalanced usage)? Should your idea exist? What arguments would a strong opponent of your solution bring forward? Is there anything in your solution that makes you uncomfortable? What? Why? Could your solution be a part of an episode in Black Mirror (dystopian science fiction series)? Try to imagine the plot. How will you evaluate incentives created by the economic model of your work, and examine the risks those incentives create, making plans to mitigate those risks, and asking: are there ways your work is misaligned with the user’s interest or the public good?


Who’s on your team?

It takes a village. Who are the ancestors, friends and family, inspirations and influences, animal and spirit guides, mentors and teachers that you feel are supporting you in this process? How might you express your gratitude for them (e.g. offer a feast), invite them into the process (e.g. a Barnraise)?


Who and what are you ultimately accountable to?

At the end of the day, what do you feel a sense of accountability to? People, communities, movements, ideologies?


How does the problem this idea solves live inside of you?

Not every idea needs to solve a problem, but if that frame is relevant for you, how well do you understand the problem you are solving? What are its root causes? What is your relationship to the problem? How have you gone about changing that relationship to it? What have you learned? Who else has experience with this problem that you can learn from?


What unique questions are arising for you?

How can you create regular time for reflection to track the big questions and record what you’re learning? Who and where can you bring these questions?


Second Trimester


Setup an OS

Many of the answers from the first trimester questions will inform activities here

  • What do you wish you had in place in order to actualize this vision?
  • Strategic
    • Theory of Change
    • Audience
    • Power Mapping
    • System Sensing
    • ⁃ What entity structure would be most fitting for our needs and the creation’s? ⁃ How can we incorporate the sacred and ritual into the process?

      Third Trimester



    • Goal: no burnout days -Start team meeting by tending to tension? -Org Calendar -Seasonal Alignment (presence clock) -Integration built in to different cycles -Especially after big events -Let’s connect with all the holidays that are on this team! More holidays, more medicine… -Monthly circling -No Slack on phones, no expectation of nights and weekends -Integrity / Safety Team - following best org practices -Advisory council on WhatsApp/Signal -Org Dev Consultant from the beginning -Mischa accountability setup? -IRL time -Personal User Manuals (optional) -No Non-Disparagment agreements -Comp is a conversation about real needs? -Monthly midweek imagination/tending day -Be a good ecosystem player
    • Birth

      On Abortion

      you know that whole thing about parents not having training before having a kid?

      aka Vision Booklet?

      How will you examine the places you have personal, organizational, and societal power, and whenever possible use your position to lift others up? ⁃ How will you empower diverse leadership within your organization?

      ⁃ Is the process as important as the outcome?

      ⁃ How has the experience been so far?

      ⁃ What would we build if we were to start from scratch?

      It’s a spiirtual thing, to be taken by an idea

      Quotes on ideas, like from Shazam guy. Will make great memes. Should prob turn Josh intuitives episode into memes. Weave them throughout this page.

      Decelerate. Unplug, reconnect with nature / body.

      take a moment to zoom in and out on the context this idea lives in.

      Not to overburden you. It’s a lot. But will change and teach you. And probably align whatever comes next more with life. Which might include you not doing it.

      SWI would like to research more about visions

    • Find place to lie on the ground and listen to what earth is saying in those places. What am I picking up in my body. Pick up stone and put it on my heart. What does it have to tell you? What does water have to say? Touch the water and listen to murmer of water. Elements are listening to audience's somewhat stupid convos. Underneath is something real.
    • What are mythological stories I want to be leaning into this season?