Need more ideas for your business? Try these tips.
Change is rapid, constant and challenging to keep ahead of – products and marketing strategies that worked last year may not be as effective this year.
Implementing the same strategies as in the past may keep your business treading water, but new ideas are needed now more then ever for you to compete and engage with your preferred customers.
The need for creative ideas can span a wide range of possibilities and topics. Depending on your business type, market dynamics, target customers or stage in the product life cycle, your challenges may include ideas for new names, taglines, products, services, promotions, content or social media posts.
Whatever your objective, following the tips outlined below can help you generate that golden nugget you are looking for!
1) Clearly define the problem, challenge or objective – write a single sentence which states what it is you are trying to get ideas around. This may sound basic, but getting clarity can help spark ideas.
For example, if you were looking for new products you might start with why. Has your current product line stopped growing due to a gap in the offering or a feature it is lacking? Maybe you have received feedback indicating a characteristic of your offering is either unattractive or even annoys your customers? This allows you to focus on how you can address these known challenges.
“Simple can be harder than complex:
You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.
But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
– Steve Jobs
2) Set a timer – generate as many ideas as you can in short bursts of time. We’re talking 10 – 15 minutes here.
If you’ve eve been in one of those meetings that go on and on, did you notice as time goes on creative productivity decreases? The timer also gives you a constraint, which research has shown helps with creativity.
Try to do a couple of these sessions without evaluating or reiterating things from previous sessions.
You can do this on a screen, paper, on a white board or a flip chart, whichever makes you feel most creative.
Here is how it may play out - if you are trying to generate a new name for your business, start with a clear idea of what you want the business to be.
Then, on a flip chart, write down all the words you can think of that describe or relate to this concept. Once you have your initial list, search to see if there are additional words or ideas from brands you admire even if they are unrelated.
Then have fun making combinations of the words on your list and see how they sound.
For example, let’s say you’re designing a logo and branding for a holistic medical practice. You think of successful companies that have branding that emulates some of your practice's characteristics. Apple’s success in branding pops into your mind. That gives you the idea of fruit -- and maybe an unique image of a person combined with a super fruit like apricot or pineapple . . . remember at this point, there are no bad ideas, record them all without judging.
“Ideas come from everything”
- Alfred Hitchcock
3) Be patient -- If ideas don’t flow, walk away. Work on something else, get a cup of coffee, or go for a walk outside. Getting away can help relax and free your mind, letting your subconscious mind have a turn to work on the challenge.
"The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time." - Henry Ford
4) Observe and Gather -- You have heard of hunter-gatherer. The creative you is now an Observer-Gatherer!
Keep your eyes open and notice things around you. Whenever a lightning bolt idea hits you – no matter what the topic – gather it up and save it. Useful techniques for this are to use Evernote, One Note, send yourself an email, or go retro and carry a little notebook. Do whatever works best for you - but do it – after just one month you will be surprised at the number of really cool ideas and original thoughts you will have collected!
Great ideas can be like shooting stars –
capture them when you get them – jot them down –
and review them at a later date.
5) Bring others into the mix -- if you work with the team or have trusted friends, colleagues or advisers, share your ideas with them and get their reactions. Often, people that aren’t directly involved with the challenge can raise good questions and contribute novel ideas.
Tip: Create an evaluation free zone (or times) to share and discuss ideas. When you are trying to get good ideas, there are no bad ideas. An outlandish or crazy thought might not be so crazy with a few tweaks.
“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
- John Steinbeck
6) Finally, if you work with a team, conduct a structured brainstorming session. This can be a very effective process in generating creative solutions. There are process parameters and session ground rules that should be followed – if done correctly it is amazing what your team will come up with! Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
Invite open-minded, energetic positive people.
Don't allow criticism or editing of ideas; encourage participants to:
“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”
- David Ogilvy
Author’s note: I love brainstorming and idea generation. As a marketing professional with a background in team dynamics, I’ve lead many brainstorming sessions to generate new product concepts and solve persistent or sticky problems. It works, it’s fun and truly more minds are better than one when it comes to creative problem solving.
I hope these tips will be helpful for you.
Please comment or send me additional thoughts or experiences -- and thanks for reading!
Great idea generation usually results in more ideas than can be used. The next step is prioritizing and selecting ideas. If you need help with that, read our next blog or contact us to see how we can help your business grow.
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