Ideas flow naturally when you’re deeply interested in something. You stay informed and thoughts turn in your mind about possibilities. Your best ideas often come at times when you least expect them to: in your car singing a song, walking in nature, watching a movie, reading a book or magazine or just before you fall asleep or wake up in the morning.
But what should you do when you’re stuck for new business ideas? Do more research in your area of interest? Talk to others? Spend more time thinking and imagining possibilities?
A more active way to spark new ideas is by using idea generation tools. You might already use some yourself and have favourites. So many idea generation tools are available – just check out websites that list 100 at a time – that you’ve got to be selective. Effective tools are usually those which appeal to you, are easy-to-use and, of course, deliver results.
Here are some that work best for me and small business owners and entrepreneurs I’ve help generate new business ideas (remember not to evaluate your ideas until some time as elapsed – a few days or better still, a week):
The 20-Idea Method: List your topic, questions or challenge at the top of a page and write 20 answers or ideas as quickly as you can. This tool works well for problem-solving.
Fusion Cards: Write to 10 objects on the left-hand side of the page and 5 to 10 random objects on the right side. Fuse the objects to come up with a new object or idea. I’ve come up with my Fusion Cards method to help small business generate ideas for new products and services.
Freewriting: Jot or type your ideas for 10 minutes spontaneously with no regard for punctuation or spelling. Go off on tangents if you like. This technique is effective for exploring opportunities and possibilities. It provides a starting point for idea generation.
Mind mapping: Write your central topic or theme in the centre of a page and get down all your associated thoughts and ideas. Works well to spot opportunities for personalised services.
Random object method (with associations): Select 10 random objects from a dictionary, a street outside or from an online random word generator. Write three associations or characteristics for each object. Link one or more of these characteristics to your problem, product or planned service. Effective for disrupting your thinking rut and providing ideas you probably wouldn’t normally come up with.
100-idea list: As quickly as possible write down 100 ideas. This is a tough method but you’ll be amazed at the results. Works for new business ideas and breakthrough insights. Put your list away for a week, then choose your top three ideas.
Questions: Write as many questions as you can about all dimensions, attributes and characteristics of your planned product or service. Be playful too. This method helps you come up with unexpected answers.
These active idea generation methods will work for you when you need fresh insights and approaches as well as giving you new twists on existing products and services in the market. Your ideas will flow.