Ideation is the creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new business ideas.
When we plan to launch a new business, we either leverage an existing concept or develop our own unique idea. The same applies to grow an existing concept of business. I have always struggled with determining which is harder – finding the idea or executing on it.
Sometimes ideas are easy enough to conjure, and the hard part is deciding if it’s good enough as the basis for developing a profitable business. If you have what you believe is a “great idea”, the next challenge is to prove or test that it will translate into a successful venture.
Starting a business plan is the crucial part and time will come when a good idea is the hardest to come up with. It may seem like all good ideas have been taken over and you are left on the sidelines with the resources and the desire to start or grow a business, but without a brilliant idea that will surely be remarkable in your business. The process of thinking of business ideas can take a day or years, and as with the creative process, rushing it is usually unproductive. Aside from other typical resource barriers (money and people), the lack of a “good idea” is often what keeps people from achieving their dream of becoming their own boss of their business.
Starting a new business starts with the idea.
Perhaps the process of developing this idea and your business concept may involve some level of testing by prototyping and iteration of the idea. During these early stages, your idea will undoubtedly evolve and may even turn into something completely different over the planning stages.
3 categories of business ideas
Across the numerous ideas that you can think of but there are 3 basic categories of business ideas, and considering these categories can help trigger the next big idea or validate the existing one:
New Business Ideas
This may be the most challenging one but new invention or business idea is better. Examples can include the Segway, virtual reality, and other product inventions you can offer. This is the hardest category for new business ideas. Few are real and completely new ideas. By “new” I mean something that does not exist in any way. It’s easy to confuse a new idea with what really improves or disrupts an existing or traditional way of doing something. It’s hard to come up with truly new and unique ideas, so don’t let yourself be paralyzed by thinking this is the only source of brilliant new ideas for your business.
Improving business ideas
Examples include express exterior car washes (where are you in the car), Virgin Airlines, LED lighting, Disney Land and others. Majority of businesses probably belong into this category. However, you can take existing service or product and you manufacture or provide it in a better way, directly or indirectly. For example, you could source better quality raw materials, or you can add value to your product or service by including services.
Interruption of business ideas
The most emerging way to do something far-fetched. Examples are Uber, Airbnb and Amazon. Our modern interconnected world, supported and made possible by the internet – now allows us to completely reinvent, transform and revolutionize entire industries that are trending nowadays. And true enough, the Internet and other technologies aren’t the only way to deliver a disruptive business idea, but they have certainly accelerated our ability to execute.
Where do good business ideas come from?
It takes a lot of imagination and brain-storming to come up with a business idea. Sources of ideas may include reading, podcasts, personal experiences, travel, conversations, hobbies, borrowing from others, creativity from the public, crowd-sourcing, art, architecture, and attempts to solve existing problems in our world. For existing companies, your customers are usually the best source of ideas. But it takes a little more than trying or reading something to spark your next great idea going.
In Belle Cooper’s “How to Generate Good Ideas”, Steve Jobs says that creative people are able to “connect experiences they have gained and synthesize new things .” According to his observation, creative people have consistently “had more experiences or thought more about their experiences than other people .”
Experiencing new things consciously and objectively will definitely influence and nurture your creative abilities, and this is one of the most productive ways in which we can continue to develop our ability to establish and build business ideas that are compelling and remarkable.
Does that mean you have to be creative to generate great business ideas?
In my own humble opinion, believe that creativity is definitely one of the most important ingredients required for ideation, along with resourcefulness and vision. However, the challenge for many people is that they either lack confidence in their inherent creative skills or lack the courage to express them and make use of them. The process of generating ideas is very similar to the creative process in that we bring out something personal that needs to be judged by other people. You need to have the courage and confidence to come up with ideas that others think are ridiculous. It is worth recalling what George Bernard Shaw wrote: “All great truths begin as blasphemies.”
Here are some guided-questions to ask yourself to help you qualify your business ideas:
- Does my idea solve the problem of a billion people or the problem of a few?
- How am I going to be able to test and demonstrate it?
- What need does my product or service fulfill?
- What is the problem it solves?
- What are the features and benefits of my offer?
- What is my competitive advantage?
- What makes this idea really unique in my market?
- How do my skills and experience align with my idea?
- Can I imagine running this concept for the next 5-10 years?
- What resources do I need to build this idea into a profitable business?