Ideas can just pop out of the blue.
Or come to us when we are busy.
Reading, watching a movie or overhearing someone complain.
Let’s briefly go through the abilities all of us have to find ideas – observation, listening and questioning.
Observing for ideas
Observation is something we do all the time. We watch people; we observe what they do, observe how they are dressed and see what they buy.
From our observations we connect ideas with those we see to form new and better products and services.
We may, for example, come across a flower delivery service. Then observe at another time home-made chocolate being made, connect these two ideas and fuse them into something like a delivery service for chocolate gifts on special occasions.
Listening for ideas
Listening is a skill that we all have but we are not always as good at it as we could be.
Yet listening to people may spark ideas whether one-on-one, in groups or even listening to the radio.
We need to refine our listening skills, paying attention to what others say, not screening their conversation out as we do our own thinking or go over in our minds about what to say next.
We may overhear one of our friends or strangers complain about a product or service.
At the supermarket checkout a customer may gripe about something he or she has bought or could not find. Being attentive to customers’ complaints can be a valuable source of ideas.
For example, in Australia a young woman asked for matte lipstick at a department store. The clerk answered her by saying that she wished she had a dollar for every time a customer asked for matte lipstick. Poppy King listened, developed a matte lipstick and earned her first million in the same year.
Questions fire ideas
We all ask questions from a young age: Why is the sky blue? Where do tears come from? As we grow up we are taught to ask questions to find out information, know how a family member or friend is feeling will get advice on loans, cars, houses.
For ideas we need to ask questions like “What if?”. What if there was a product that could remove stains from carpets effortlessly? What if we could make more tasty breads and sell them?
Asking “Why not?” also opens our thinking to possibility, spurring new ideas.