What is Your Why?
Without ideas, there would be no startups. It takes an idea to lay the groundwork for a business plan. It takes ideas to package the business effectively and creatively. When obstacles arise, it takes new ideas to solve them, and when competition arrives on the scene, only new ideas can keep them at bay.
Generating ideas is not easy—even experienced entrepreneurs can’t force themselves to come up with new material on the spot. Instead, they rely on an old process of conception and refinement to come up with lots of ideas consistently and refine those ideas until they become presentable. Learning this process can help you come up with more and better ideas, but ultimately you have to create a process that makes sense and has a little bit of direction to it.
What Direction Should You Go?
1. Inspiration. The first step is basic inspiration. It might be a turn of phrase you didn’t fully think through until you heard it out loud. It could be a "gut feeling" about something. It’s unrefined and unperfected, but it’s there. All of us experience moments like these on an almost daily basis, but most of us end up ignoring them.
2. Confrontation. When met with a moment of inspiration, we’re forced to confront it. Most people immediately bury the idea, in favor of more “important” pursuits. As an entrepreneur, you need to train yourself to say “maybe” to every idea that pops into your mind. Saying “maybe” gives your idea life. And it might that idea that takes flight.
3. Research. Now, you need to research. See if the idea has been done before, and if it has, if there’s any way to modify or improve yours. This can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
4. Refinement. Work your idea down to its core, or build it up into something more massive. Change it. Mold it. Adjust it. The more you refine your idea, the better it’s going to be.
5. Presentation. Once refined, the last phase is to shop it around to other people, and that means preparing it for external analysis and criticism. This is the final polishing step, but you can only get here if you follow the other four.
Fortifying the Idea Factory
Three-fourths of companies are consistently disappointed in their innovation results, according to global surveys of executives. But a minority of organizations—what I call the Innovation Vanguard–recognize the need for change if their results are to improve. Put simply, if good ideas don’t get hatched, they won’t get launched. The vanguard organizations, 23 of which we studied for the book Driving Growth Through Innovation, create stronger idea factories by cultivating the conditions whereby “happy accidents” are more likely to occur. The vanguards are, in essence, reinventing inventiveness. They are paying much more attention to the front end of innovation where possibilities first come to light. And they are managing these notions in vastly different ways so that large quantities of ideas enter the funnel, get considered, eventually fill the pipeline and eventually emerge as new products, processes, solutions and business models.
In reviewing the unconventional methods of these leading organizations, I conclude that, while breakthroughs can never be guaranteed, superior idea management systems can do much to increase throughput and output of significant ideas. These leading-edge organizations tap seven key strategies for fortifying their idea factories. They:
Todd Social is a serial entrepreneur and tech enthusiast dedicated to helping startup technology companies get the direction and momentum they need to succeed. As the founder of iDeaology Creative Lab, Jose has established a collective resource for tech entrepreneurs to consult when brainstorming, creating, launching, or expanding a new business. Jose is also the founder and CEO of iDeaology Consulting Group, a marketing firm that combines technology and creativity to help new and growing companies get the results they need.
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