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Ideas — we all have them. They come in us in unique and peculiar ways. They can come in us while in a meeting, reading a book, or even while taking a shower. The unexpectedness is what makes them brilliant.
How To Develop Great Ideas For Your Business
Take Airbnb for example. What started to be a quick solution to pay rent, founder John Gebbia and Brian Chesky thought of renting out three air mattresses on their apartment to strangers — a bold and risky idea. Did it work and become a worldwide success? Absolutely.
Out of dozens ideas you have, there’s that one idea that is so good you can’t stop thinking about no matter how many times you tell yourself it’s stupid and impossible. Every single idea you have is a hidden gem that just needs a little bit of love and hard work.
Well, how do you exactly develop good ideas and make them great? How do you make that idea you thought of while showering into reality? Here to help us are people who once had good ideas like you and are now successful business owners and entrepreneurs.
1. Think about it then don’t think about it.
It’s confusing I know. For Paul Wood, UK Managing Director of Indulge Media, a good idea is a succinct summary of a problem and it’s solution. You have to define and analyze the problem you’re trying to solve then understand your target market. Once you’re done with these, take some time out.
“Once you’ve defined what you need to solve, often the best way is to step away from it. Someone once said to me ‘creativity is what happens when we are doing something else’ — it’s true, the more you relax and focus on something else, you allow your mind to wander through to a solution.”
2. Learn a thing or two from your competitors
Sometimes you get a good idea, but get stranded on the thought. You’re not quite sure how to move forward. CEO of iTestcash, Alex Reichman, has a simple solution to this. Look at what your competitors are doing. How? Checkout their sites, read their blogs, and subscribe to their mailing list.
“After doing that, you may have an easier time brainstorming for some ideas as compared to starting from scratch. It is a common thing to do in business industries, whether it is for blogging, music, or even video games. Often looking at your competition can be a source for new ideas, whether it is to improve on a topic or to look at something from a different angle.”
3. Test before saying yes
One of the reasons a good idea fails, is when you let the idea take you to a frenzy. You start feeling like you’re running out of time and rush the decisions you make. Developing ideas is a process and not just something you can simply say “yes.” Speaker, Author, and Market Researcher at Unity Marketing, Pam Danziger shares her way of creating ideas and putting them to good use.
“Listen intently to what your customers are saying. Too often customers give us powerful new ideas, but we are too busy to hear, or those ideas don’t conform with our current way of thinking. Take what you’ve learned from listening to customers, and conduct a structured research study around those ideas. Take the results of the research and put them to work. Develop new business concepts and then offer them back to your target customers. Don’t go all out with new promotions, until you’ve seen the results of the test. And most importantly, be sure to read the results right.”
4. Feed your mind — literally.
Aj Saleem, owner of Suprex Learning, has his own way of brainstorming ideas with his team. He conducts creativity luncheons once a week. It’s a paid lunch time with his team to discuss new ideas. It’s his way of stimulating ideas and creativity from each team member. He also implements brainstorming sessions everyday for five minutes at the beginning of the day and five minutes before the shift ends.
“Every day for 5 minutes at the beginning of the work day and 5 minutes at the end, I ask my employees to brainstorm any possible ideas. This allows them to think of any possible solutions to improving the business. I also accept suggestions quickly. I ask that my employees, as soon as they have an idea, to speak with me immediately; this encourages them
to constantly think of new ideas and suggestions because they know I would not ignore them.”
5. Build your bridges
When you have recognized that you got yourself a potentially good idea, it needs to be taken to the next level. That’s when the time you build your connections. Share the idea. Talk about it. Talk about it a lot. This invites people’s curiosity. CEO of Compass Rose Consulting, Donna Price says that showing your passion and commitment to an idea can both help bring other people on board and make it happen.
“When you start talking about your idea, then people start helping you to bring it into reality. Resources appear that you didn’t know existed. People appear who can help with it. Keeping an idea secret can stop it in its tracks.”
6. Ask your mom
Garrett Mehrguth, CEO of Directive Consulting, says that ideas are easy to develop. For him, execution and testing are the real challenge. He also shares his unique ways in determining a good idea from a bad one.
“Do these three things: First, ask that super-skeptical friend. If he can’t rain on your parade, it’s safe to say your idea is decent. Second, ask your mom. Did she hesitate? If yes, then you’re toast. Lastly, get feedback from others in the industry on Twitter. If it has legs you’ll find out fast.”
7. Listen to your customers
Success could be a result of hundreds of ideas funneled into one. Todd Eskow, owner of Computerized AutoPro, an auto repair shop in Edmonton, gets ideas from his clients and from the rest of the world.
“We record our calls everyday and I listen to every single one of them. Every complaint, question, and suggestion is a valuable source of data. Listen to their stories too. This will help you understand your clientele better. Take some time as well and search the world wide web. Read blogs and forums related to your industry. I remember bumping into a forum about 100+ tested marketing ideas for auto repair companies. It was an insightful list of ideas and I was able to converse with like-minded people in the industry.”
8. Explore and go alone
Shell Harris, owner of Big Oak Studios, Inc., shares how travelling is good for your business. Well, not really wanderlust. Travelling doesn’t only mean jumping on a plane and exploring the world. As simple as exploring an unfamiliar place can be counted as travelling.
“Get out of your everyday life and travel. This doesn’t mean you have to take off a month and see the world, although that would be fantastic. This can be as simple as having lunch in a part of town you don’t visit, or taking a drive in a direction you don’t plan. It can be an afternoon trip or a day trip. The point is to go somewhere that creates new thought and inspiration by introducing your brain to new stimuli. And go alone. Being by yourself allows for more introspection and observation.”
9. Challenge your idea
Don’t just focus on building the good side of your idea. Challenge it. This way you can identify weaknesses and problems at an early stage. Royal Essence Ring Candles owner, John Grant, has a habit of opposing new ideas from his team.
“When you let an idea go without challenging it, it’s like letting an unarmed soldier out in combat. If you’re not aware of your new product or service’s weaknesses and threats, then your customers, or worse, your competitors will. Think of the worst scenarios and figure out how your idea can succeed through that ordeal.”
10. Test an ugly product
To put this in another way, test out an honest, raw, and unfinished product. The purpose of this is to see what your customers think of the idea. Bryan Mattimore, Co-founder of Growth Engine explains why you should use an ugly product.
“Why an ugly prototype? Because you’re trying to learn both what’s good about your idea, but even more importantly, what the idea might be lacking. You therefore want honest and frank feedback. If the prototype is too finished, consumers are less likely to tell you the truth, or give deeper insights/feedback. (For instance, they might say they don’t like the color versus that this idea doesn’t solve an important unmet need for them.) Another reason is, if they think the idea’s “finished,” they won’t see themselves as a creative partner in making it better. Conversely, if the prototype is ugly, they are much more likely to give honest/truthful feedback since they know the prototype is a “work in progress.”
The key takeaway from this article is simple. If you have an idea, own it! Too many people have good ideas and only few act upon them. Don’t let a good idea slip. Move your ideas forward. I’m very sure there are more than 10 ways to develop them and If you have ways that worked out well for you, let me know on the comments’ section.