A Brilliant Method To Generate Ideas For Your Business
The future of your business depends on just two abilities.
Firstly, being able to come up with excellent ideas to expand your business. Secondly to be good at implementing those ideas.
There are thousands of books and articles about the implementation part, but comparatively little about quality business idea generation. Over the last 25 years I have made my living coming up with good business ideas and over time I developed a system that allowed me to do so quickly, efficently and effectively.
Below is a quick ten step methodology that will allow you to speedily generate lots of different ideas for your company. Whether you’d like to conceive new income streams, fresh marketing concepts, breakthrough positioning strategies or novel product ideas, this system will get the job done.
Here’s how it works. Spend ten minutes on each of the questions below. During the ten minute period endeavor to come up with as many answers to each question as you can. Only after you have completed each question should you review your solutions. At stage one, it’s all about quantity – the more answers you come up with, the higher your chances of generating something wondrous.
Stage two is the sifting process – picking the gems and discarding the rest.
Follow this process and you’ll have no shortage of excellent ideas to use throughout your company.
QUESTION ONE: WHAT’S SOMETHING I COULD DO THAT’S REALLY EXTREME?
This question forces you to think more laterally than most of us usually do. Often when we brainstorm, our ideas are merely tiny changes to what’s already there. The danger is that if we think too safe and small we often will end up with solutions that have no hope of making an impact. By choosing to conceive ideas that must all be extreme we have a chance of coming up with ideas that, with a little tweaking, could be something really special.
QUESTION TWO: WHAT COULD WE ADD TO SOMETHING WE ALREADY DO TO MAKE IT MORE EXTRAORDINARY?
This question can lead to some wonderful ideas. By simply adding to an already successful concept you can take it into a totally different and vastly more profitable area. Is it not true that many of the most impactful concepts in your industry were only slightly better than what everyone else was doing? Take ten minutes to brainstorm additions to your existing best ideas, you may well be delighted by what you come up with.
QUESTION THREE: WHAT COULD WE STRIP AWAY FROM WHAT WE ALREADY DO?
This is in many ways the opposite of the previous question. When you look at an existing product or industry, you can often come up with something novel by just reducing the core idea to something simpler. For example, when Bic produced the first mass produced disposable razor it was merely a simplified version of the traditional version. Toyota did the same with cars, decades ago. What could you strip away to create something more unique, novel or marketable?
QUESTION FOUR: WHAT IDEAS COULD WE TAKE FROM OTHER INDUSTRIES AND APPLY TO OURS?
It’s amazing how little cross pollination there is between industries. Yet, one of the quickest ways to come up with a break though idea is to examine what other industries are doing and see if you can apply those concepts in your sector. For example, software sales people could learn a lot from the best real estate sales people. TV writers could learn a whole range of new techniques from advertising writers. Don’t just navel gaze inside your own world – take a look at the industries around you and see how their old ideas could become your new ones.
QUESTION FIVE: WHAT COULD WE STEAL FROM COMPETITORS AND MAKE A SLIGHT CHANGE TO?
Picasso said “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Steve Jobs once remarked, “We are shameless about stealing great ideas.” If these so called original thinkers were happy to steal from their competitors, maybe you should consider it too. By stealing, of course, I don’t mean outright IP theft, I am suggesting that you look at products and strategies your competition is using with success, alter them a little then try them yourself. Generally speaking, if they work for them they’ll usually work for you. A case in point; Indian Motorcycles has grown a breakneck speed in the last three years by copying many of the marketing strategies that have worked for Harley Davidson.
QUESTION SIX: WHAT WILL THEY BE DOING IN OUR INDUSTRY IN 20 YEARS?
This question sparks loads of intriguing ideas. Don’t look forward 12 months, have a go at foreseeing two decades. You may not predict accurately but you are far more likely to come up with interesting ideas and directions for your company. After all, the future is often dominated by those who can envision where an industry is heading, rather than merely looking at where it is currently. For instance, TV exec Barry Diller made himself a billionaire by successfully predicting 15 years ago that the internet would become a major advertising platform.
QUESTION SEVEN: WHAT WOULD WE BE SCARED TO DO?
This question is all about pushing the envelope. How far would you go? Could you go? The answers will often up all kinds of intriguing ideas – and possibly create entirely new sectors. In the education world, the recent rise of MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses that deliver high quality education to millions for free, shocked the industry. But that scary idea is currently creating several super fast growing enterprises. As the British Special Air Service commandos say, ‘Who Dares Wins.’
QUESTION EIGHT: WHAT WOULD STEVE JOBS DO IN THIS SITUATION?
Or John Paul Getty? Or Andrew Carnegie? By trying to guess how great entrepreneurs would handle your business situation, you free your mind up to think in different ways. How would they disrupt your industry? What direction would they choose to give them a chance of dominating your sector like they once did theirs? Pretend you’re them and find out.
QUESTION NINE: WHAT’S THE FASTEST THING WE COULD DO?
This is another out of the box way of thinking about your business. If the usual product cycle in your industry is 12 months, how could you get a product out in 12 weeks? Don’t just say it’s impossible, force yourself to think more laterally. James Patterson is one of the world’s most successful authors. When most authors produce a book every year or two, last year Patterson released twelve! How? He asked the speed question and came up with an entirely different way of writing, using teams.
QUESTION TEN: WHAT’S THE CHEAPEST THING WE COULD DO?
The vast majority of successful companies were started with less than $25,000. Many have been begun with a few hundred bucks. Contrary to popular opinion tiny budgets often increase creativity, not inhibit it. So think cheap, really cheap. What could you create for a song, if that was your only option? Stick with that question for awhile and I guarantee you some exciting solutions will emerge.
– Siimon Reynolds