Sam Sanders launches some big ideas

man talking to students in a workshop setting

The most powerful tool for success lies in the idea machine that is our minds. Unfortunately, our minds can also be our greatest obstacle to success. To unlock that potential, Sam Sanders, author of Your Next Big Idea, joined the Blackstone LaunchPad on September 17 for an Idea Jam to kick off a series of weekly Startup Socials. Behind the glass doors of the LaunchPad, the event featured mingling over slices of afternoon pizza with old friends, long-time LaunchPad members, and new faces as they shared excitement and connected over ideas.

Sanders, Syracuse alum and successful entrepreneur many times over, spoke on his specialty: crafting ingenious ideas to solve problems, societal or every day, large or small. Sanders, whose recently published book guides readers through exercises on how to overcome barriers in thinking and dream up ideas to do anything from start your own business to make your every-day workflow more efficient, hoped to give back to the LaunchPad entrepreneurship community in helping our own entrepreneurs and problem solvers ideate effectively.

Sanders opened the event with a hands-on mind game. As he passed around pieces of paper and pencils, the room was filled with brainstorming and scheming chatter. The two mind games, simple math exercises, proved to be nearly impossible to solve. The problem? One of the largest barriers in our thought processes: stigmas. These can vary from social stigmas, where certain actions are deemed conventionally appropriate, to habitual stigmas, where we might unconsciously perform behaviors though they are irrational, simply because they’re habits.

Sanders then offered three key strategies to overcome the challenge of stigmas in mental patterns. The first, Blank Paper, involves starting from ground zero and challenging all assumptions surrounding the problem. In the second, Wild Imagination, one thinks of the absolute craziest solution to a problem, and then works their way backwards to a feasible answer. The last that Sanders offered is called the Alien Invasion Strategy, where one assumes they have no knowledge of human conventions or common behaviors, in the hopes to find a solution outside the box of traditional answers.

To test these stigmas and theories, Sanders encouraged the crowd of students gathered to apply these to their own ideas. Those in the room actively working on a business he asked to focus on a particular problem in their current business and use one of the problem-solving tactics to brainstorm solutions. The others in the room he grouped and asked to identify life passions and potential barriers and solutions surrounding pursuing those passions.  Participants began overflowing with ideas on topics from how to erase barriers to travel to how to publish the works of disabled authors.

After the Startup Social hour drew its close, participants left with sharpened senses of their own mind’s blind spots and energized by tactics to solve challenging problems. 

The LaunchPad’s Startup Socials are hosted to create a weekly space for our community to actively share ideas and grow from the advice of seasoned entrepreneurs, and we are so thankful to Sam Sanders for leaving the LaunchPad community smarter and invigorated to solve their problems. The LaunchPad is excited to welcome all in the Syracuse community to join us Fridays at 3pm to share in upcoming spaces of creativity and innovation.

Story by Claire Howard ’23, LaunchPad Global Fellow; photos by LaunchPad Rubin Family Innovation Mentor Kelly Davis ‘23