I heard Jason Calacanis on TechZing talking about this subject a while back. He mentioned that in an interview he’d ask people how they would solve a particular technical problem they hadn’t encountered before. The immediate answer was usually to search for it. Tech savvy readers are likely thinking the same thing. His reply to was to ask, “What if search engines are all down?” The point was to continue as far as the candidate would go before they gave up. Each response was looking for the candidate to offer a new option because the previously mentioned one is deemed unsuitable or unavailable. IRC? Wikipedia? Quora? Ask a Coworker? Manual? Office book? Library? Call the company? E-mail a friend? The premise is that people who are smart and get things done will be more resourceful and better able to list alternatives because they can become consumed by solving particular problems. Brainstorming and resourcefulness are (like much else) the products of practice.
I think this idea could be a useful filter for interviews and it lets you look for a certain kind of dogged persistence in a candidate that would be otherwise difficult to discern in a short interview process.
My twist on this idea for my own benefit is brainstorming and becoming more resourceful at customer development. What are the most effective ways to connect with customers and what concrete steps build those bridges? I’m betting on blogs, conferences/meetings, and SEO content. These are common avenues. What needs to be uncommon for success is resourcefulness. Persistence. Determination. Because bootstrapped startups fail only when you quit.