Good ideas are the lifeblood of any business. Where do they come from? How do you know when you’ve had one? What do you do when they dry up?
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What was the last good idea you had? Maybe it was the idea to strike out on your own and, right now, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea…
However uncreative your business looks on the surface, having and nurturing ideas is a key part of keeping going. You might have the idea to launch a new product or product range or deliver what you currently do in a different format, to reach a whole new market or to stop doing something.
Ideas are a key part of my ONION coaching framework and I find that coaching sessions with my clients are often fertile times for great ideas to emerge and develop. For many clients part of my role is as a sounding board off which to bounce new ideas. I’m often privileged to be the first to see the outline of a new concept for a product or service and to help a client begin to flesh it out. For others the safety and challenge of our coaching sessions cause them to see things differently and generate great ideas for new or revised ways of doing things in their work or business. As I’ve listened, observed and collaborated on the the genesis, development and testing of these ideas, a few things have struck me.
- A good idea doesn’t necessarily have to lead to immediate explosive success. A good idea is simply one which helps you see or do things differently even if only for a short period of time. That ability to change your perspective is a precious one which allows any founder to see opportunities, spot gaps in the market or in your offering which leads to you and your business creating more value. So you know you’ve had a good idea when you find it giving you a fresh perspective on one or all aspects of your business even if you don’t decide to act on the specific idea itself.
2. A good idea invites you to stretch the bounds of what you previously thought possible. That sounds very grandiose but it can be an everyday change. Perhaps you’ve only ever used one sales channel for your product because, when you started, that was the one you were most comfortable using. You simply couldn’t imagine using anything else. Well, further down the line, you might want to consider exploring other sales channels either on your own or in partnership with others. Perhaps you’ve only ever dealt with a supplier or team member or your customers in one way, but a change of mindset gives you a good idea for how to approach these relationships differently.
3. A good idea builds on and reinvents reality. Again, this sounds grandiose but the best ideas take what’s already good and look to make it better. Good ideas aren’t always about novelty or being first, often they’re about execution and improvement, looking at what you’re doing well and tweaking or re-imagining it.Good ideas aren’t always about novelty or being first, often they’re about execution and improvement
4. A good idea gets better the more you chew it over. A sign that an idea is good is that it is robust enough to stand up to a little thought and scrutiny. That process might take a little time – not necessarily years or even months but certainly days and maybe weeks. A coaching session with a good Business Coach who knows how to ask the right questions can speed this up a bit but it doesn’t negate the value of taking time to chew over and probe your idea a little yourself before sharing it with others in your connectwork and taking criticism or questions as a welcome chance to test the idea’s robustness rather than as personal attacks.
5. A good idea evolves over time. Really good ideas often grow and flex to fit changing purposes, markets and situations. For instance, a new delivery channel that was too expensive three months ago might work now there’s more demand, raising the product price to cover that cost whilst also being able to deliver more.
6. Anyone can have a good idea – they are not the preserve of mad geniuses or business gurus. If you can look at the world, your work and your business and consider possibilities then you can have a good idea, one which has a positive impact on your business, its bottom line and numerous others.
7. Good ideas can come from anywhere. One CEO talks of the importance of wandering to the company’s car park and chatting to employees there as being part of nurturing his company’s culture of innovation and execution.
8. Finally, and following on from that, good ideas are about linkubation. I’ve coined that word to make the point that, although we think about great ideas as emerging fully formed and entirely original, one of the many wonders of the human brain is its ability to make surprising, productive links between supposedly unconnected things. In his classic, highly recommended (and wonderfully succinct) book, A Technique for Producing Ideas, renowned 1960s ad man James Webb Young comments that “the habit of mind which leads to a search for a relationship between facts becomes of the highest importance in the production of ideas…”.
These unexpected links are what bring about those “What if…?” ideas that grow and deepen businesses and impact the world far more widely. That’s why taking time to explore broadly beyond your immediate scope, to nurture your relationships beyond work and your outside interests isn’t just good for your overall wellbeing, it’s a very good idea if you want to keep having good ideas.