Back to Basics: Idea Generation

Back to Basics: Idea Generation

We know that being an entrepreneur can be exhausting and difficult at times. With that said, it can be good to restart your brain. What better way to do this than to go back to the basics?

In this blog post, we are going to look over and review the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. You never know what you might have forgotten or what ideas can come out of it!

Throughout this post, we will be using information that can be found in Entrepreneurship by Laura Portolese, Jaclyn A. Krause, and Julie R. Bonner. This book does a good job of explaining different ideas that lead to business venture success. Since entrepreneurship itself is such a  broad topic, we will be focusing mostly on opportunity and idea generation. If there are any other topics you would like a refresher on that we don’t cover, comment below!

Let’s get started!

Let’s begin with a definition. Opportunity entrepreneurship is “the combining of individual qualities and favorable economic and social conditions to create a new product or service in a new or existing market.” This is an important definition to remember because matching your personal qualities to a business venture is essential for success. 

Think about it. If you are not in-tune with a specific market because it doesn’t interest you or you can’t think of ways to enhance the market, it probably isn’t for you!

Similar to this, being able to differentiate passions, hobbies, and real business ideas is an important skill for success. Knowing the difference is necessary because it is easy to confuse them and create an unsuccessful or dispassionate business. Sometimes, it can be good to mix your passions with your real business, but you need to think about if you’ll love it when you have to deal with the business aspects. 

For example, say you are an amazing baker and love to bake. However, you only like baking when you feel like it. This means that baking is a hobby, and you probably shouldn’t start a bakery. 

Moving onward, the most important information to review and take notes on is generating a good idea. Idea generation is defined as “the process of creating, developing, and communicating ideas that are abstract, concrete, and visual.” The keyword here: process. It is a common misconception that revolutionary, million-dollar ideas come out of thin air. It’s true that some ideas come accidentally, but idea generation is typically a systematic process.

Take, for example, Bill Gates. Gates and his business partner and longtime friend, Paul Allen, were interested in what computers could create in the world of personal computing. They didn’t randomly think up the idea of Microsoft and all that goes with it–they stopped, thought, researched, and worked out different ideas. 

Now, we are going to share some of the characteristics of a successful idea generation process. 

  1. Challenge assumptions. If you assume that you can’t do something, you are likely to prevent yourself from thinking creatively. Try to stop doing this! Remember: the possibilities of what you can do are endless.
  2. Shift your perspective. It is easy to get caught up in your own thoughts and perceived limitations. Because of this, it can be useful to talk to someone else, brainstorm ideas with another person, or try playing the role of another person when generating ideas. Thinking from all sides of an issue can help you weed out the issues and limitations of your idea or product and save you down the road!
  3. No idea is a bad idea. Avoid judging ideas when you’re brainstorming. You don’t want to stop your creative flow with negative thoughts.
  4. Brainstorm and generate as many ideas as possible. Quantity gives you a greater selection of ideas to go through. Write down anything that pops into your head and go through them later. You never know which idea will be a winner!

All of these characteristics seem to target one common enemy: your inner critic. Your inner critic is definitely important and can be useful for finding weaknesses in an idea, but you need to allow your ideas to flow and be evaluated before shooting them down. NO IDEA IS A BAD IDEA!

Now that you have gone through some of the characteristics of successful idea generation, we are going to go through the methods for idea generation. 

  1. The mix and match method is “a brainstorming method in which two things are combined that don’t normally go together. This may produce a new idea for a product or service.” 
  2. The solve it method “encourages you to tune in to the world around you and question everything. This brainstorming method requires you to listen to those around you and attempt to solve complaints and common problems.” A great EN example of this is with inventor Franklin Ramsey, who took the common problem of trashbags falling into trashcans and created Pressix.
  3. The what if you could method is “a brainstorming method that challenges the entrepreneur to think about things that can’t be done currently but that would be a benefit if possible. For example, what if you could listen to music while floating in the river (a question that produced waterproof speakers)?”
  4. The out with the old, in with the new method “looks at common products and attempts to change the products to make them better.” This method is important because any product can be made better! Find a problem, something that irritates you, or something that is harder than it needs to be and create a solution. We guarantee that you are not the only one who wants the issue fixed.
  5. The SCAMPER method stands for substitute, combine, adapt, modify, put to another use, eliminate, and reverse. This method “encourages the entrepreneur to consider a new or existing product, then use action verbs to determine how it could be changed or used in a new way.”
  6. Finally, the mind mapping method is” a graphical technique for making connections between ideas.” In this method, an entrepreneur will write a phrase or word in the middle of a page. Then, they write down anything that comes to mind having to do with the word or phrase. These will then be used to try to make connections and solve a problem.

As you can see, all of these methods target the characteristics of successful idea generation. If you feel like it, you should give them all a try and see which ones work best for you! Otherwise, hopefully, you saw a method you haven’t used and can try it out the next time you get stuck!

After generating ideas, the next steps are evaluating the ideas and implementing the ideas. In these stages of successful ideation, you create an opportunity assessment plan, nail down the idea, begin planning the product, and start developing! 

We hope that this blog post made the significance of the idea generation process clear and that it will help you when creating products and ideas in the future. Remember to never let your inner critic kill your creative spark! Let us know if you would like more “Back to Basics” blogs in the future by commenting below.

Until next time, put your thinking caps on, allow your ideas to flow, and create!

3 Comments Back to Basics: Idea Generation

  1. Marie Difolco

    This was such an interesting read! I have definitely used these methods but without knowing it, without knowing they had a name! I often use mix snd match, that must be how my brain works! I love mind mapping too and this has just reminded me to use it more! Such good advice too, to never let your inner critic get to you!

  2. Derrick James

    One can only wonder how many transformative ideas are killed by the inner critic (as well as the outer critic) before they ever have a chance to fully form. Great topic.

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