Five Great Links to Help You Think Outside the Box

Desktop Products Marketing Manager
Xerox Indirect Channels Business Group

Besides your hard work, your small business depends on new, innovative ideas. But where do these ideas come from?

Steven Johnson’s premise in his TED Talk titled “Where good ideas come from” says ideas are brewed, cultivated and take time to form. They don’t just pop into our heads like the EUREKA! moment often credited by most innovators.

Mr. Johnson relays the story of the London coffee houses in the midst of the 1700’s as the birthplace of many of the great ideas coming from the industrial revolution. 

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Today, the web serves as our new “idea incubator”. I find these five sites help stimulate my ideas about life, business and society as a whole.

 TED Talks

Of course, TED talks are at the top of the list. TED Talks are short (a maximum of 20 minutes) talks expressing opinions about science, technology, environmentalism, and more. I first started watching these talks to help my presentation style (another good reason to watch TED Talks). Then I began watching talks on different topics that I felt had a bearing on something that I was thinking about for work. Great site.

The Big Picture blog

Written by Barry Ritholtz, this blog is mainly about investing and the economy, but gives some great insights on the motivations behind events of the day. The Big Picture, and Barry himself, is often quoted by financial press. Even if you disagree, it’s good to hear another point of view.

Duct Tape Marketing

Hosted by John Jantsch, this blog gives some very basic, practical advice for marketing – no matter what size of firm you happen to be. I particularly like his description of our profession: “Marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like and trust you.” Fabulous advice for your small business in one sentence.


Melinda Emerson and her tell-you-like-it-is attitude are wonderful. Sometimes blunt and sometimes more advisor-ish, she has a great perspective on different small business issues. From getting customers to stay to managing your business to using social media effectively. Short tips that may help you think differently.

Brain Pickings

Curated by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings is eclectic and very hard to explain. However, Maria puts it this way: “Brain Pickings is a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” I view Brain Pickings as the closest thing to the London coffeehouse described by Steven Johnson. I read it every Sunday evening to help me think about my upcoming week. 

Check out these sites and let me know what you think. Are there other resources you use to help get your creative juices flowing? Share them below.

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  1. Jenna June 12, 2012 - Reply

    Hey Shell –

    Thanks for including Duct Tape Marketing in your list!

    I also enjoy reading: for practical advice on how to get the creative juices flowing.

    Thanks, Jenna
    Marketing Manager @ Duct Tape Marketing

  2. Shell Haffner June 13, 2012 - Reply

    Duct Tape is a regular read for me …copyblogger is my #1 content creation blog. Agree with you 100% . Should have titled it 6 great links… And put them on the list.

  3. Lisa Graham July 23, 2012 - Reply


    We are using WordPress as our blog platform. It’s a tough choice. Good luck with your decision!

    Lisa Graham
    Manager, Social Media Marketing and Communications
    Xerox Indirect Channels Business Group

  4. […] June, I shared author Steven Johnson’s TED talk, “Where good ideas come […]

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