Coming up with new business ideas for products and services involves observation, listening especially, especially to gripes, and reading in your chosen area of interest. These are the tools we all have, some more developed than others, and that with effort and imagination we can spot opportunities. This is particularly so when we make connections between unrelated or random thoughts, concepts, ideas, and objects.
But what should we do when we are stuck or simply need to explore ideas? This is when we can use idea generation tools to show us new possibilities for products and services. Using idea-generation tools and techniques we will be able to come up with more ideas than we can use. This increases our opportunities for coming up with better ideas and perhaps even breakthrough ideas.
Let’s look at a simple example to highlight the value of generating ideas in quantity. Top commercial photographers for high-readership, quality magazines take many photographs before they find one that will perfectly illustrate their subject of interest. In National Geographic’s “50 Greatest Pictures” some of the behind-the-scenes secrets were given. One sentence shows just how much trial and error goes into shooting iconic images:
“A photographer shoots 20,000 to 60,000 images on assignment. Of those, perhaps a dozen will see the published light of day.”
In generating new business ideas such extremes are rarely necessary. But, still, if you don’t push yourself beyond your first few ideas, how are you going to come up with something that will wow potential customers?
Check any creativity or idea-generation website and you’ll find up to 100 idea-generation techniques. Do you need all of them? Which ones should you use?
I’ve used many of these techniques for solo brainstorming, in pairs, groups and one-on-one with small business owners. The most effective techniques will depend on the type of idea-generation challenge and the temperament of the business person.
Freewriting will give you some direction on where to start your ideas search. The 20-Idea Method will work better for problem-solving to generate ideas. My Fusion Card method will work for completely new products and services. Mind mapping help you find links between existing skills, experience and interests for new personalised services ventures.
A photographic business owner will likely go for the random object and association techniques I sometimes use. A thinking, analytical person may enjoy using TRIZ Contradiction Analysis. Yet others may even take to more esoteric idea-generation methods such as Lotus Blossom, Guided Imagery and Visioning.
Next time we’ll look at some of the more useful techniques for start-ups, small business owners, kitchen-table entrepreneurs and side-line income generators.