I participate in quite a few online and face-to-face communities that help me generate ideas for my small business. For you, OPEN Forum is (hopefully) one of them.
What I've found in each case, though, is that I tend to wind up clicking very well with a very small subset of people from that community. These people contribute ideas and angles that I wouldn't have considered - and I often provide the same thing for them.
Over the past few years, I've been combining these people together into an email list where all of us can share ideas and bounce things off of each other. I call this list my "brain trust," and it currently numbers about twelve people.
What is the value of this list? First of all, the list is filled with people who often generate great ideas that complement my own. Second, these people are not direct competitors of mine, but have enough peripheral (or direct) knowledge of the areas I work in to be able to provide valuable input. Finally, they're not afraid to speak their mind out of politeness - when a bad idea is presented, we're all willing to call a spade a spade as long as we have clear reasons for doing so.
I consider this to be a valuable component of my business.
Do you have a brain trust like this? If not, here are some ways to get the ball rolling.
Participate in communities. Find where people who do things similar to what you're doing hang out and congregate. You're not necessarily looking for your direct competitors, but people who are in adjacent areas of business or are very indirect competitors of yours. You need to find people you can communicate with more openly than you could with a direct competitor.
Participation, of course, means more than just reading. It means offering up your own thoughts on a regular basis, in a respectful way. It also means sometimes doing legwork for the benefit of that community.
Identify trustees. Over time, you'll find yourself noticing and trusting and valuing a certain subset of people quite a bit. You'll likely begin exchanging a few direct messages just with them and pay careful attention to their comments. These are the people who are good candidates for your brain trust.
Keep up the one on one contact with them and continue to build that relationship. Over time, you may find that the person has become a big part of your thought process for ideas. When that happens, you've just found a new member of your "brain trust."
Bring your trust together. If you've found several people like this in various communities, don't hesitate to bring them together. Make introductions between them, for starters. Later, send ideas to more than one of them at once and encourage them to reply to all of you.
Eventually, you may find it useful to combine all of these people together on a single email list, making it convenient for all of you to touch base with the entire group. It will not only benefit you, but it will benefit all members of the "brain trust." You'll all win as a result.