Someone I know came up with an idea for a new business selling fish and chips and other seafoods done in the traditional seafarers’ way. The idea for this restaurant excited the individual and he spoke a lot about it to family and friends. But this gourmet seafood takeaway still waits to be born.
Do you get a high when you come up with new business ideas? It’s almost as if the excitement of the idea feels like you’ve actually accomplished it already. It’s like the high you get from a top motivational speaker, pumping you up with inspiration till it’s pouring out your ears. But a day later you’ve forgotten it all and put nothing into practice. A new business idea for products and services is often a picture of the end result. But an idea doesn’t come with a plan for its implementation. Continue reading “How many of your ideas do you follow through with detailed action plans?”
Google X has launched its experimental pilot Loons project in Christchurch and Canterbury, New Zealand, a project that has mounted broadband transmitters on high-altitude balloons. The idea behind the project is to give people in remote areas access to the Internet.
This is a project from Google’s secretive research lab whose mandate is to come up with new technologies. It has been experimenting with a Google driver-less car, Google Glass, similar to a normal pair of glasses but with an HD display over the right eye, and an airborne turbine prototype works for electricity-generating propellers at high altitudes. Continue reading “How entrepreneurs can benefit from innovation in these times”
Asking what-if questions can help spark new ideas but you’ve got to ask the right ones. Right ones? Shouldn’t you let rip and come up with anything? Well, you might get ones like this:
What if you stand outside your house and look straight up for at least a year or so – would you appear on Google Earth?
What if you were a hotdog and you were starving, would you eat yourself?
Perhaps these what-ifs could get you thinking with a new perspective. But will they? No they won’t, I hear you say. You’re right. Why is that? Let’s see:
What-if questions help you see the ordinary in a new light, to gain new perspectives. The ideas that result from “what-if” questions are merely seeds that may spark explorations into areas that you have never thought of before. Asking “what-if” questions is unlikely to present you with a practical idea that you can implement right away.
You need to ask further questions that lead to new ideas. The initial “what-if” question is really only a springboard to get your imagination working.
Now, listen up. What comes next may surprise you:
A man ran a small service station and a restaurant outside of town on the main highway to Florida in the United States. He concocted a seasoning for fried chicken. He made a “nice living” until they changed the highway into the Interstate system and the new road bypassed his business. Colonel Harland Sanders was 66 years old, looked at his $105 Social Security cheque and decided what if he used the money to try franchise his chicken recipe. What if he were to take 5 cents from a chicken just as Mr Woolworth had built up his business with his five-and-10-cent stores?
From a simple idea – a what-if question – he launched an international fried chicken franchise that spread worldwide.
What “what-if” questions could you ask yourself?
Here are some that could get you started coming up with your own:
What if you could do something that would make your customers laugh so they feel happy buying from you?
What if you were a product, what product would you be and why?
What if you were a service, whose problems would you solve and how?
What if you were a search word on Google, what would you be?
What if your new product was a woman, what would she tell other women?
What if your competitor created your product, what would they do?
What if you could anticipate the needs of your customers before they even know it?
Try some what-if questions yourself. See how many you can come up with. It’s not as hard as you may think. Write down 20 of them and select your best three. Take these three and see how you can expand them.
For example, the first question may lead to: what if we make customers feel welcome when they make first contact with your business whether it’s off-line or on-line? What if we shipped their products so quickly to them that they felt thrilled by our service? What if we sent customers a thank you note telling them how delighted we are with their purchase and that if they have any questions or problems, they can contact us immediately? And when they do, what if we received their complaints with a smile?
To use what-if questions effectively, you need to be imaginative as possible but remember that they are merely a springboard to further questions that are relevant to your business. They can provide you with valuable insights into how you could launch new products and services and improve those that you already have.
Hooked yet on what-if questions?
Try out some of your own and see where your inspiration leads you.
What if you came up with a hot new business idea for a product or service?
What does it take to be successful? Is it innovation, adaptability or striving for a clear goal? Or sheer luck?
Here is a sobering statistic often touted in the success literature: If you take 100 people and follow their lives until retirement, something like only five will be successful, meaning they will retire financially secure. The rest, well you know how it is, they’ll still be struggling until the day they die.
After 60 or 70 years how many companies are still successful? How many are still around trying to survive in the modern world with new digital technology, global markets and brutal competition? Are they also the five percenters?
Two companies thirty years ago were aware of the coming digital technology in film and took steps over time to protect their businesses. One is now at death’s door, yet the other one is thriving.
The one company ramped up digital cameras and expanded its chemical side into pharmaceutical drug products without success. It was slow to change and introduce innovation. Smart phones pummeled its old film and camera making business. This company filed for bankruptcy today.
The other company also went into digital photography, innovated a line of cosmetics and branched out into optical films for LCD flat panel screens. This company enhanced innovation making fast changes. Though it’s been a difficult ride with restructuring, slashed costs and jobs, the company is doing well despite the economic times.
The two companies are Kodak and Fujifilm. You can read more here in a business briefing on technology change called “The last Kodak moment”.
Our lives might not parallel the trajectory of large companies but the lessons that stand out are that change requires innovation, doing things differently and acting when we see the alarm bells rather than waiting until the wolf is at the door, breaking the house down.
Faced with the challenge to change what will you do? Wait or act?
How can you make the changes necessary to thrive in the year ahead and coming years?
The techniques and methods in www.ideaaccelerator.co.za can help you whatever business you’re in. Why wait? Go take a look at the articles and links now. Send us an e-mail to find out how we can assist you.
PS If you know anyone who is interested in subscribing to these e-mails and blog posts from www.ideaaccelerator.co.za, please forward this e-mail to them. Let us know who you sent this mail to and you stand to win a free special report on generating ideas for profit. All your networking friends have to do is to go to http://www.ideaaccelerator.co.za and fill in their email address and first name in the subscribe panel on the top right-hand section of the screen.
Dealing with the challenges in your business has become increasingly urgent with the economy as it is. Yet we know that some business people thrive under any circumstances. These far-sighted business people take measures to innovate their business despite prevailing circumstances.
A business owner* who runs a media and website business was experiencing a gradual drop in his conversion rate from quotation to sales, which was leading to lower revenues. At ideaaccelerator.co.za we jump at such challenges and offered to help solve the problem using the idea-generation and ideation expertise we’ve developed over a number of years.
At first he was skeptical. “But how can creativity and new ideas work for my business when all I have is a sales conversion problem?” he asked. Our reply was, “Why not give it a try and see what happens. You haven’t come up with a solution now and who knows when you’ll stop the decline so using these idea generation techniques and processes could help you right now, wouldn’t they?”
Steps to produce amazing ideas
We started with a closer enquiry into the possible cause of the lower quotes to sales conversion. Next, we took the business owner through a series of steps to produce ideas that were imaginative and energizing. We tried to disturb the usual thinking patterns that keeps us stuck in familiar thinking ruts – the same tired ideas that get raised in brainstorm meetings that never seem to fire inspiration or let alone work.
He had an initial resistance to these new approaches but we guided him into the processes we have developed. We’ve found that it is often better to just get on with following the tools and processes and finding new solutions than to get into detailed, arcane explanations that will only really be understood once they are experienced when the results start flowing.
The tools and techniques used to assist this business person to generate ideas were suited to his temperament and natural curiosity. Knowing what works best with individual customers is important so that they remain motivated to complete the necessary steps.
Astounded at the quality of ideas
The business owner was astounded by the number and quality of ideas produced. His problem became how to sort through all the ideas and prioritise them. We gave him a simple prioritization grid which quickly helped him select the best ideas with the fastest and biggest payback that he could action in his business right away.
The result of the ideas produced and implemented was a 200% increase in quotes to sales conversion. All this was achieved through working on tangible and intangible parts of his service and increasing benefits for customers.
“We increased our sales conversion by 200%”
“Using ideaaccelerator.co.za’s ideation process, we came up with new ideas for our business that helped us increase our sales conversation by 200%,” the business owner told us afterwards. “We generated so many ideas that it will take a year to implement them all. We’re already started on actioning just three and the results are amazing.”
By generating more and better ideas small businesses can leapfrog their competitors through innovative ways to do business. Unless idea generation is purposeful and directed towards a clear, definite end goal the results will be less than spectacular. The idea generation facilitator needs to be experienced or very familiar with business and the success factors for small business because a high level of experience is required. While business is often considered a science by the business schools, it’s more of an art that requires a high level of judgement and ingenuity to activate the levers that will produce the best results.
Businesses faced with the challenges in the marketplace today with lower demand, varying customer buying patterns and price-sensitive customers have a choice to wait and do nothing until disaster strikes or innovate their businesses to produce stronger profits and stay ahead of their competition.
* Details of the business owner and managing director of this case study can be made on request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Come up with your own free, easy and low-cost promotion ideas that can help you to lift sales in a difficult economy
In this rough and tumble economy, some business people sit, like frogs in a pot immobilised with the water temperature rising. Even when the temperature hits boiling point, they remain in the pot. If the frogs suddenly stumbled into the pot of boiling water, they wouldn’t hesitate to jump right out. Why then don’t small business people react quickly when they recognize warning signs?
Many business people seem to stubbornly believe that they can rough it through the difficult economy doing business in the same familiar way, despite turnovers in some cases plummeting by a third or more. Small business has such a high mortality rate in “normal” economic conditions but when economic activity declines, the mortality rate rises.
Riding high and spending less
During the good times small business owners were riding high. They spent less on their marketing as customers walked in and bought whatever they wanted. Small business owners were spoilt as they had to do little personal selling or advertising.
Now, when times are tough and small business owners and entrepreneurs are more concerned with meeting personnel expenses and covering overheads they are even more reluctant to spend money on promotion. Yet clients and customers are holding onto their cash, waiting for times improve, hanging onto their homes, cars, computers, household appliances for longer, repairing them instead of replacing them.What should store owners and small service businesses do?
Ignore selling and promotion at your peril
Even though small business owners have seen turnovers drop many are wary of spending money on promotion. Some are trying to play it cheap by bringing in well meaning family and friends to help them promote their products and services. Other owners knuckle down on the technical areas and processes in their business, ignoring selling and promotion at their peril.Promotional ideas need to work
Little do those businesses who use retail space or have high visibility and walk-in customers realise that if they don’t do something to promote their business and lift sales, they will be forced into operating the business from home to chop overhead. Running a business from home ironically means needing to acquire a whole set of new marketing skills.
How do you go about promoting your business in a stormy economy where every cent counts? Small businesses and entrepreneurial enterprises cannot pour vast sums on vague institutional (image) advertising with no way to measure sales. Entrepreneurs need to generate sales — even when advertising in traditional print media, adverts have to be “keyed” and have special phone numbers specific to adverts. This way they can measure their advertising conversion. A small travel agent told me recently that she had a separate phone number for each advert to measure response. If the newspaper, magazine, radio or television advertising didn’t pull, it had to go.
Test, test, test
Promotional ideas that work are specific to each business and the mind or emotional triggers of their customers. Small business owners need to brainstorm ideas that they think will work for their business. Try some no-cost, low-cost ideas out first and see how they work. Remember to test, test, test. As Claude Hopkins said, “Almost any question can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign.”
To get fighting fit in this economy small business owners and entrepreneurs need to focus their attention on attracting customers to their business through a variety of low-cost, no-cost promotional ideas. Idea generation techniques can be effective as can meeting with fellow business people to share and swop ideas. In the next article on www.ideaaccelerator.co.za we’ll look at tips, strategies and other ideas to promote your business. In the meantime, take a look at what your competitors are doing as well try to spot other businesses that seem to be doing well no matter how hard the harsh economic winds blow.
Need to produce ideas to start a new venture, come up with a product or service or promote your new business? Do you want to release your latent potential? Is there a low-cost way to quicly learn how to produce ideas almost instantly?
A simple but effective technique for producing ideas has been around for some time and it is finding new applications in business whether you run a kitchen table outfit, small business, consulting practice, work for a corporate or in manufacturing.
Before you stop reading because you erroneously believe you are not creative or that this technique is for creative people like artists and writers, consider its new applications for business. Let me explain.
Silence your internal critic
The technique is freewriting and involves writing quickly without stopping for a set time (ten minutes or longer once you’ve got used to it) without regard to spelling, punctuation or grammar. Even writing gibberish or babble is OK. In fact, you don’t need to write complete sentences — just keep your pen or keyboard moving as fast as you can but without rushing. The process of freewriting helps you to prevent your internal critic getting in your way while you are creating and generating new ideas. Your internal critic can be useful afterwards when you need to evaluate, assess and judge.
Freewriting is private but it’s up to you to share what you’ve written. Private writing frees you up to write anything you want without constraining or censoring yourself for an audience even if it is only one person.
Freewriting can be useful for any person, artist, writer, advertising specialist, scientist, business person, manufacturer or consultant.
Creativity can’t be commoditized
A recent addition to the freewriting field is Accidental Genius by Mark Levy, founder of the marketing strategy firm Levy Innovation. Levy covers using freewriting to explore ideas and concepts for writing projects (blog posts, articles and books) but also for a wide range of applications in business.
Freewriting can be used to generate ideas for marketing, promotion and sales to name just a few. What I found helpful were some of his applications like researching new products, investigating business opportunities and exploring your best ideas.
His suggestions for freewriting are helpful to generate new products and services, develop business plans, devise business models and ignite marketing programmes. Levy also shows how you can use freewriting to keep your focus on what you want to make of your life.
All this guidance aside, the real test of your freewriting progress is to come up with your own ways to use freewriting to create ideas and to solve problems or explore solutions. Your first freewriting forays may not generate breakthrough ideas but repeated attempts (at least three times a week) should yield pleasant and profitable surprises.
Open up your thinking
Levy’s methods are also useful for consultants and trainers who wish to help clients unlock their creativity and help them to solve problems or come up with new ideas. He advises to teach freewriting to a client, a colleague, a team, an audience. “Don’t, however, just teach it as an intriguing skill,” he says. “Teach it to them as a means to open up thinking about a specific problem.”
Freewriting is a valuable technique for coaxing those ephemeral thoughts and insights, teasing the unconscious to delight with epiphanies. It is one of hundreds of many creative techniques that can help you to draw valuable insights and ideas from your effervescent unconscious mind.
Knowing which technique to use in a given circumstance or to meet the particular needs and interests of an individual or team takes experience and understanding. Freewriting whether performed on your own or under the guidance of a creativity consultant or ideation expert enables both entrepreneurs and corporate employees to sharpen their ideas for starting new ventures, revitalizing their business and winning new customers.
Copyright 2011 Bell & Cray Business Research™. This material used with special permission from Bell & Cray Business Consulting™. Bell & Cray Business Consulting™ is a division of Bell & Cray™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.
Copyright 2011 Bell & Cray Business Research™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.
Being blocked in our ability to produce ideas and innovate can feel like being sucked into a narrow tunnel, a dark passage, a deep cave – where we can remain trapped for what seems like an eternity.
How can we snap out of our unfortunate trance? What are some of the psychological and emotional obstacles blocking our state of creativity, our flow of ideas?
Here are six mental blocks creators and innovators need to recognise and overcome their mesmerising spell:
1 Coveting the status quo
We don’t want to disturb the existing order, the way we have always done things. Trapped in the bliss of our comfort zones, the dull grey hue of existence becomes a pale but safe substitute for the risk of being energised and feeling alive.
2 Fear of not being good enough
Low levels of self-esteem become a self fulfilling prophecy. “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage,” says Anaïs Nin. What will it take for us to believe that we are equipped for life’s challenges? Yet another degree, another course, another pile of books? We need to discipline the inner critic before and during our idea generation. Silencing it altogether is unwise as we need it later when we evaluate our ideas and prepare to introduce them to our customers and communities.
3 Analysis by paralysis
We become obsessed by the detail, believing that if we plan out things thoroughly and painstakingly we will have enough bases covered to succeed. But where’s the action? Analysis can be a violent intellectual act, the opposite of synthesising, creating something new. Isn’t the Ready, fire, aim approach more effective than Ready, aim, aim, aim, splutter?
4 Fear of change
Change can be filled with discomfort and uncertainty. Pain avoidance protects from harm. We miss the dynamic of embracing the new and experiencing personal growth. Mastering the art of handling the scary onslaught of change is not easy but what price do we pay for avoidance?
5 Ego needs (embarrassment)
We may not believe that we can make a difference; that our ideas, our thoughts, our presence possess value. What we cast out to the world will come back to smack us in the face. Who do we think we are? Our ideas will be ridiculed. You’ll only make a fool of yourself, we hear our family members say, threatened by our temerity to venture outside of the norm.
6 Secure identity
Holding safe our identity we stay trapped in untenable situations, positions and roles maintaining an image of ourselves that we may erroneously believe others respect us for. Being aware of how our identity stands in the way of seeing ourselves differently allows us an opportunity to redefine ourselves.
Remaining stuck because of any of these mental blocks can be a serious impediment to our growth and well-being — and our ability to create and innovate. It takes self-awareness to recognise the mental and emotional traps that hold us back from becoming what we yearn to be. Sometimes our lives require risk — putting ourselves on the line. As a creator in advertising, art, architecture, choreography, design, literature, music or any other human enterprise, we would do well to consider the words of Ray Bradbury, “Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down”.
At the beginning of the 1980s I worked as an editor for a supermarket business magazine. I spent some time meeting people in the industry, storeowners, store managers, buyers, operations personnel. I worked afternoons for three months in a Spar in Midrand learning the basics of supermarket retailing from a Greek storeowner who was passionate about retailing.
One evening my publisher and I attended a function at the Pick ‘n Pay hypermarket in Boksburg. Raymond Ackerman came over to say hello to my publisher who introduced me, saying I had recently joined him to cover the supermarket beat. Raymond said he and his managers would make themselves available if I needed any information from Pick ‘n Pay.
Some may have looked at such an offer cynically in those days when there was much publicity about him as being the consumer’s friend and his philosophy of consumer sovereignty. I interviewed many managers and executives while I was a business writer on a financial weekly but no one made such an offer to assist.
It is difficult for people today to comprehend just how inaccessible executives were those days. Public relations or corporate communications was in its infancy in most companies, many of which didn’t even have a formalised function or relied on public relations agencies.
Over the years I have seen how that small gesture represented more – it was part of an attitude and philosophy that had a strong foundation. Although the Pick ‘n Pay managers at the time were tough, they were all accessible.
I never had an opportunity to thank Raymond for that gesture, which was singular for me.
On 13 October 2010, I had the privilege and honour to sit next to Raymond at a lunch to raise funds for orphans of HIV/AIDS through Noah. He was there to talk about his new book “A Sprat to Catch a Mackerel”. During the lunch, I mentioned his gesture way back in the early 1980s and how it touched me. He said it was a long time ago but he would like to know if he and his managers had lived up to his promise. I said that they certainly had and, in fact, and gone beyond what I had expected. He talked briefly about consumer sovereignty and the importance of practising social responsibility.
After Raymond talked about his new book, I reflected on how over all those years all the CEOs who were prominent at the time were now mostly forgotten. Almost none of them stood out. What was the reason? Was I missing something?
Then it hit me.
I was fortunate in recent months to be exposed to a session on strategy and management by an expert who lectures at St Gallen University in Switzerland. He held a discussion on the “why” of marketing and positioning. We were shown a video by young American who passionately explained how leaders such as Steven jobs and Martin Luther King had developed a compelling “why” behind their approaches. They understood why it was so important to stand for something greater than the “what” of their message, product or company. If you’re interested in the video, I attach the URL link here How great leaders inspire action. It seems to go to the heart of what Raymond Ackerman had grasped way back in the 1950s and 1960s.
Customer service, serving people, to be real and credible, has to be part of a deep belief system acted out in a sincere and positive way.
P.S. I am interested in ideas, producing ideas and the commercialisation of ideas. Raymond Ackerman bought four Pick ‘n Pay stores in Cape Town in 1967 from entrepreneurial retailer Jack Goldin, the person who started Clicks in 1968. I interviewed him only once — for a financial weekly when Clicks was considering branching into the United States. It is interesting that Goldin devised ideas for starting these two businesses.
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