Will you settle for your first best idea?

New Ideas
New Ideas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day I was looking for a small speaker to play out of my cellphone because my ball speaker had blown out after about four years of use. I was in a hurry to get a new speaker and came across a Bluetooth wireless speaker. It sounded good in the music store and I bought it thinking that this was better than my original speaker, which despite the small size put out a mean sound.

I should have known better. This new speaker is almost useless in the car and doesn’t even put out enough sound in even a small-size living room.

Settling for the first thing you come across whatever you are searching for isn’t always the best thing to do. The same applies when generating new business ideas. If you settle for your first best idea, you may not be able to achieve as much if you continued pushing the envelope and coming up with even better ideas.

I like what Edward de Bono has to say about going beyond the adequate. “As soon as something is satisfactory our thinking must stop. And yet there may be many better arrangements of information beyond the merely adequate.” In logical thinking, which he terms vertical thinking, you tend to reach a point where logic won’t take you any further. With lateral thinking, or generative thinking, you can go beyond the adequate through the generation of new ideas. Yet you need tools for insight restructuring so you can go further and come up with ideas that may take you past cliched concepts and thinking.

When you search for alternatives, you don’t necessarily discard using the most obvious idea, concept or approach but you delay the use of “the most probable approach” which enables you to generate a number of alternatives and allows you to choose the best from many more possibilities.

This may all sound easy on paper but if you want to go beyond your first best idea, you can use an idea-generation tool such as the 20-Idea Method which is fun and challenging. I used this method the other evening and found that when I got to ideas 8, 9 and 10, I really struggled. From ideas 11 to 20 my associative, generative and flow state kicked in, linking all sorts of ideas and experiences which made the second half goes so quickly that it seemed it had only taken a matter of minutes. Instead of settling for the first best idea, I now have 20 alternative approaches that I can evaluate and select one of these to tentatively explore with seasoned professionals in this residential market.

Pushing the boundaries like this can leave you exhausted. Your brain is pushed to the limit. You’re so tired you don’t know what to do with yourself. You’ve had enough. Even though you want to get away from your personal brainstorming session, you will most probably feel a sense of elation in having come up with a range of alternatives, including some which are not even yet products or services in your local market. But it’s best to let those sort of ideas settle for a while and come back to them later.

Yet ideas are only ideas until you test them against current reality by maybe observing what is taking place in your local market or listening to customer complaints and problems, ferreting out evidence of demand for similar services and products. This interplay or back and forth between new ideas and thinking and the reality of the customer takes you into the next phase of product development.

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