"I think and therefore I am" said Descartes. A modern day successful entrepreneur might as well say "I think and therefore my business thrives." Entrepreneurship thrives on ideas. Ideas are the fuel that drives business, the lifeline in times of crisis and the basis of entrepreneurship itself. Importantly, good ideas are incredibly hard to come by. Where as bad ones abound.
So how can you generate great ideas for your business? And the right ones too?
It's an Ideas Factory Out There
First of all, to know what you can do differently, you have to know what exists. Knowledge and information greatly powers your capacity to think innovatively. Often, entrepreneurs are great at obsessing over every single news snippet related to their business, but they ignore other areas of interest that they may have had in their lives. For instance, if you've set up a Social Media Marketing business, what are the chances that you're reading about theatre or art, or music? Keeping abreast with information and interests can greatly help you with idea generation and innovation.
A great example of this would be Steve Jobs. In his Stanford Graduation speech, he talks about dropping out of college and attending classes that purely interested him. He talks about his interest in Calligraphy, and how that interest led to the creation of beautiful font options in the Personal Computer.Â It is just a small example of how, a little, 'by the way' interest led to an idea that rules how we type on our computers in today's world.
Write Them Down – They're Important
There are many complicated idea generation techniques out there, like Mindmapping and the Ishikawa Diagram technique. Try them and if they work for you, that's great. But the chances are they will be mere stimulants. If you focus on being well-rounded, pursuing interests outside your business, while also passionately pursuing your business interests, you'll never lack ideas. In fact, you'll have so many ideas that you will not remember them or you will just not have the time to implement them. The best idea generation tip is to not forget or lose good ideas. Make a list and review them whenever you're consciously working towards generating new ideas. The likelihood is that you can build on an existing good idea you might have had months ago, and make it a great one.
Get Out of the Idea
Often, when you're an integral part of your business, there are view points you're completely missing. If you're sitting in front of your desk and trying to figure out what the customer wants it's going to be harder to come up with a great idea. Going out there and interacting with customers, getting out of the situation and actually putting yourself in your client's shoes can help you understand what they really want. With great insights, great ideas are born.
Sometimes, getting out, also means distancing yourself from your business. When was the last time you took a day off from not thinking about your business? It may not always be possible to take a holiday, but how about going for a movie, spending time with your family or just re-reading your favorite novel and giving your brains time to recharge. Taking a break helps your subconscious mind ruminate over ideas and present them to you when you're ready.
What are Great Ideas for?
An entrepreneur must routinely look at different ideas and analyze them. Not just business ideas, marketing or promotion ideas, but little innovations that businesses make, say to cut costs or motivate employees to think big, their hiring practices and so on. A deep understanding of what makes ideas great will not just help you with generating better and better ideas, but it will help you evaluate your own ideas better.
If you're not naturally inclined to a fascination with great ideas and innovation, develop that obsession.
Read about how Bill Gates started Microsoft and about how Pixar does such great work. Understand how Google's 20% percent project time for its employees has helped generate some of the greatest ideas in tech history. Analyze how Music Record execs create millions worth of record selling artists.
The world abounds with great ideas, start following them, chase some of your own, and soon your business life will be full of wonderful ideas.
Giving it Time & Chipping Away at it
The truth is that out of 100 ideas, 1 might be half-decent. Great ideas are hard to come by, but by consistently chasing them, you make idea generation a part of your personality.
Some of the biggest innovators of our time have personality types that can be defined as 'idea-chasing', which involves constantly thinking about the next big thing. The best part is that this thinking seems to come naturally to them, and the motive is not always profit. Often, it's about creating something absolutely innovative and mind-blowing. Take Richard Branson's Flight to Space, for instance. Agrees, that an idea like that needs billions of dollars to bring to life, but there are hundreds of billionaire entrepreneurs who are merely chasing more billions. It is the innovative entrepreneur like Richard Branson, who wanted to offer something different that came up with it and in the process, makes more billions than the rest.
Innovative businessman didn't become star thinkers overnight. But they chased great ideas constantly. They chipped away at it, like it was what they were born to do. Give it time, chip away at generating great ideas, take it easy, get out of the box occasionally but persistently chase ideas and you will start generating good ideas on a daily basis.
Idea generation is the first step to innovation, and innovation is the key to a successful business. So do what it takes, to get those great ideas!
Preetam Kaushik is a freelance writer/independent columnist and an avid blogger. He is a web 2.0 expert and writing consultant serving a wide array of clients. Read more about Preetam here.