Coming up with new ideas is essential to creating an incredible business. It’s important to channel creativity to maintain a business worth representing. However, maintaining that creativity day in and out can be challenging, especially if tasks add up and there aren’t enough hours a day.
As opposed to forcing yourself to come up with new business ideas or new products, consider capturing great ideas naturally when they come to you. You don’t have to come up with ideas on your own either. Invite other small business owners over to brainstorm ideas or if you have a few employees have a meeting where you can all discuss those ideas. An innovative business will go far in getting and keeping a strong audience and customer base.
Whether you run a small business with employees or are a single entrepreneur, keeping the entrepreneur mindset in mind is important to business growth and development. Business.com mentions ways to encourage risk-taking and coming up with new ideas.
Intrapreneurship inspires every individual employee to think like an entrepreneur, encouraging risk-taking and giving power to their ideas.
“Intrapreneurship, in itself, breeds innovation, because employees who work with the mindset of an entrepreneur will utilize all resources when problem-solving,” said McMahon. “When leaders encourage intrapreneurship, they are inviting employees to bring out-of-the-box and industry-disruptive ideas to the table.”
Make sure each worker knows that ingenuity is welcomed and even urged. This will not only spark new ideas for your business from varying perspectives, it also makes your employees feel more confident and passionate about their work.
Brainstorming with Publications
If you’re working independently sometimes it’s hard to find inspiration, but that’s where newspapers and trade journals come into play. Both work well for generating ideas and Innovation Management explains why that’s the case:
The general publications contain articles about several industries, which is good for brainstorming new ideas that can apply to your own industry.
Marketing techniques and strategies discussed in the journals can help you brainstorm new marketing ideas of your own.
In publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the editors include a mix of short articles (good for brainstorming ideas based on what others are doing) and in-depth reports (good for brainstorming new product development strategies that grow from trends).
By skimming a variety of business related articles (news articles, features, human interest, and analytical pieces) you broaden your idea base, which results in more new product ideas.
Take Action Right Away After Brainstorming
It’s easy to brainstorm and come up with killer ideas, but unless you follow up with those ideas it’ll be difficult to make a plan later. That’s why Fast Company recommends striking while the iron is hot and goes on to explain more below.
Then it’s time to take action. Most brainstorming sessions end with an agreement to have another meeting later, to take those ideas and work them up further. It’s a common mistake. You want to strike when the iron is hot–you don’t want to walk away or agree to follow talk with more talk.
Here at Google, we like to build a quick prototype pretty much right away. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just a physical manifestation of an idea that’s designed strictly to answer the most immediate questions and test our first assumptions about an idea that seems promising.
Encourage Fantastic Ideas
If you need to do some brainstorming with team members or with fellow entrepreneurs, Forbes recommends thinking outside the box and not being afraid to come up with some “wild” ideas. You never know what other ideas may follow.
Encourage wild and even “absurd” ideas. To paraphrase Einstein, “If at first an idea doesn’t sound absurd, then there’s no hope for it.” By encouraging participants to suspend judgment of ideas, participants will feel free to generate unusual ideas, bold ideas, humorous ideas and even absurd ideas. As facilitator, if you’re not hearing frequent bursts of laughter and enthusiastic cheers now and then, somebody out there is playing the role of Debbie Downer. Find her and put a sock in her mouth! If your group is known to be overly-linear and prematurely analytical, plan a fun exercise to start the session that has nothing to do with the main brainstorm objective. Lately, for example, I’ve started sessions by doing an exercise where participants design better shopping carts, coach airline seats, or driverless cars, just to get folks thinking out of the box.
Visualize Products and Services
In addition to brainstorming and setting up a series of steps to make a plan happen, visualization also helps. Entrepreneur says that visualizing what problems may arise will prevent issues from happening in the first place.
Visualization has been proven to enhance learning ability, and stimulate process-oriented creative thought. This technique starts with a large speedboat drawn on a whiteboard or large sheet of paper, which is named based on the challenge at hand. Team members work on identifying roadblocks or variables that would “slow down” this boat, and specify the kilometers or miles by which this specific problem would hinder progress. After all the obstacles or “anchors” have been identified, participants can work on resolving these issues and finding innovative solutions.
Sometimes it’s best to deviate from traditional ways of brainstorming and try non-traditional approaches instead. This works because switching a routine can inspire creativity as well as make employees excited because you’re trying something different. You never know what type of ideas can come out of a brand new type of meeting. Business.com explains more on how to do this:
You don't always have to take the traditional route. Innovation calls for creativity and risk-taking. Sometimes that means implementing a new way of thinking.
For instance, at Lunar, employees engage in “negative (or reverse) brainstorming,” which begins with something you'd like to improve, or an issue that needs solving. Instead of thinking of solutions to that issue, participants discuss possible ways to cause it, reversing the problem statement and dissecting those ideas.
“This tends to be an easier exercise for participants and can actually lead to some funny, ridiculous characteristics,” he said. “Participants then take note of all the ‘worst' characteristics given and then write down the opposite of each idea, or the positive side. While reviewing these now-positive characteristics, look for common themes, and evaluate if any of these commonalities provide a real opportunity for solving the initial problem.”
If coming up with new ideas are challenging, consider incentivizing team members by providing rewards. There are many rewards you can think of such as giving away a few free vacations or treating employees to a nice lunch. Another idea would be providing bonuses, and Irish Times provides additional ideas below:
Be it monetary or otherwise, the best way to keep employees trying hard and working toward success is to reward effort. Companies often think rewarding employees means big bonuses, but recognition for a job well done can come in all shapes and sizes. Employees can be rewarded with flexible working hours, a freebie or even the chance to develop their idea and head up the project.
Jeffrey says Accenture’s Analytics Innovation Centre, which opened in Dublin in 2011, was a result of a brainstorming session. The employees who came up with the idea for the centre got to work on its development, bringing it from an idea to reality.
“A group of employees were in a meeting thinking about how they can innovate. They came up with the idea for an analytics centre in Ireland. They drew up a business plan and began working on it. Their work has resulted in more than 100 new jobs in Ireland.”
She says the company also runs an innovation incentive scheme globally, whereby employees are asked to come up with ideas and the winners get cash rewards.
“Locally we don’t incentivise with cash. Being allowed to see the idea through is a reward in itself. We do give prizes and recognition for great ideas in Ireland, but not cash.”
Curley says Intel has an internal “academy awards” where employees are recognised for innovation.
Build a Relationship With Customers
Info Entrepreneurs recommends closely monitoring customer behavior and forming relationships with them. Besides coming up with innovative ideas you need to find out if customers are enjoying your products and how you can improve them. This will help you figure out what to expand on and what isn’t working.
It's not enough simply to know who your customer base is. You need to communicate effectively with them as well.
Communication involves not only listening to their needs but also actively observing their behaviour around current products and services and generating ideas on how you can make improvements.
Involve your suppliers and other business partners
Pooling your resources with your suppliers or other business partners will help to produce and develop creative ideas. Potential partnerships can also be developed through business networking opportunities.