Innovation isn’t something that can be reduced to a formula. It can’t be turned into a formal structured process. Nor can it be simplified into fixed rules. You can’t just copy or imitate the methods of another business and expect the same or better results.
An infomercial business owner walks into stores and asks:
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?
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