In 2018, I set at a table with other entrepreneurs in my 10,000 Small Businesses group at a campus outside Boston and studied course work around all the subjects that compose business: marketing, hiring, finances, operations, etc. The goal of the program was for the entrepreneur to develop a plan to purse a growth opportunity.

One of the instructors introduced a brainstorming framework called Earth Sky Space. You draw two horizontal lines on a piece of paper to create three zones. The bottom zone is earth, the middle is sky, and the top is space.

Then you consider growth opportunities from these three zones.

Earth ideas are incremental improvements that are accessible and well known. Hiring someone new or marketing to an adjacent vertical would be an earth idea.

Sky ideas are ideas that are possible, but represent big leaps into new areas. Developing a premium version of your product that sales for twenty times more or opening an office in a new country might be sky ideas.

Space ideas are ideas that are crazy. They have little basis in reality. A spaced out idea might be to start a burning-man-like event that brings culture and business together on an abandoned oil rig in the gulf coast.

The sky ideas are the best growth opportunities.

However, you can’t go from earth ideas to sky ideas. You have to start with space ideas and bring them out of orbit into the sky.

The big leaps forward start with what is impossible, not with what is familiar.

Featured image is the Golden Record attached to Voyager 1. Carl Sagan said that, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space, but the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ says something very hopeful about life on this planet.” Used under public domain.