A man called Ingvar Kamprad had the idea to sell furniture you assemble yourself. His company – IKEA. James Dyson came up with the concept of bagless vacuum cleaners. The rest is history. Michael Dell discovered a way to miss out the middlemen and sell computers direct to consumers. The company is called Dell. Nick Woodman wanted to help surfers take better pictures as they rode the waves. He developed the product known as GoPro.
There are many stories of great business ideas that lead to even greater riches. But what about your own business? There will have been an idea that got you excited, that got you started. But are you still excited by it? Has it brought you the customers you want and the scale up you’re looking for? Has it brought you happiness? Or have things gone a bit stale? Do you need to find another fresh idea to energise both you, your team and your customers to take your business to the next level?
If the answer is yes, keep reading. Great ideas are as rare as an empty inbox. They come along infrequently and are notoriously hard to find. But they are out there, and with the right amount of effort and talent, they can be unearthed. Here are some suggestions of ways to find them.
Seven ways to find an idea.
Have a brainwave, not a brainstorm.
An idea comes from one brain, not twenty. Yes, other brains may improve and refine the idea, but one person gives birth to it. That’s why I’m not a fan of the brainstorm. They’re just an excuse to use up post-it notes. The way to unearth an idea is to get your brightest brains on the case and give them the time they need to find them. The idea may not be fully formed. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but if it’s a good one, you can all sit down and fine-tune it. None of the great ideas in the first paragraph came from brainstorms. They came from one person’s brainwave.
Have a clear brief.
The simplest way to get thinker’s block is to not have a brief, or worse still, have a bad one. You can’t get your creative thinkers to come up with a brainwave if they don’t know what you’re looking for. The best way to approach any brief is to write down clearly the problem that needs solving – we need to improve the culture within our business; we want a new product that our customers will find easy to use; we need a brand name that will resonate with a younger audience. How the problem is solved is up to your deep thinkers.
Don’t follow. Lead.
By all means look back at what other businesses have done, read about great innovative ideas, and learn from their mistakes. But don’t expect to find the answer in the past. The whole idea of creativity is to do something that hasn’t been done before. And that can be scary. People feel comfortable with what’s familiar. But the way to stand out is to be different, to be disruptive, to find the new angle, to do something new.
Create a creative culture.
This doesn’t mean turning your company into an ad agency with football tables on each floor and bean bags in reception. But you do need to create an environment where ideas can flourish. Google design their offices so that ‘casual collisions’ can happen, and employees can inter-react to develop fresh thinking. You don’t need to go this far, but it’s worth thinking – is your business geared up to developing ideas? Are people encouraged to come forward with new thinking? Do you incentivise your team to find ways to make your business better? Maybe you should.
Hire the correct talent.
The right side of the brain houses the creative factory. But what if you’re a left brain sort of person? Then make sure you’ve got enough right brain people around you. Anyone can have a good idea, but creative people have more than most, and occasionally some amazing ones. So, if you’re serious about jump-starting your business, make sure you have the talent around you to make it happen or find people who can create the brainwave you’re after.
Keep a very open mind.
New ideas, as mentioned in point three, can be very scary indeed. They may take you several miles outside your comfort zone. But that’s not to say that they’re wrong. They may just take some getting used to. In fact, if an idea’s truly ground-breaking, it will definitely take some getting used to. So don’t be too quick to give an idea the thumbs down. Sleep on it. For several nights. It could be the idea that revolutionises your business.
Stick at it.
Just because an idea hasn’t come, doesn’t mean there’s not one coming. Resilience is one of the most important traits of all creative thinkers. There will be knock backs galore. You can guarantee it. But the rewards are there for those who persevere and keep looking.
A great idea has the power to transform your business. It can re-energise both you and your company. It can motivate your team and your customers. It can show the world you’re not resting on your laurels. It can grab the attention of investors and those looking to buy. It can mean the difference between stagnation and growth. It’s worth looking for.
Malcolm Duffy is Creative Director of BGI.