Whether you’re just starting out on a new venture or have been running your own business for a while, coming up with new and original ideas can be tricky. For starters, unlike some of the most innovative companies with impressive marketing campaigns, you probably don’t have a whole creative team or an expendable budget. This means that all your creative ideas are most likely going to come from yourself but don’t let that put the pressure on, generating creative ideas come in all sorts of ways and we’re going to uncover them.
Audit Your Business
If you already run a business and have fallen into an ideas rut, identifying areas of improvement and growth in your business is the best way to start clearing the fog. It might be that you need to work on ideas and structures that you already have in place. For example, if you need ideas to make your work processes more efficient, you might look at business apps like Google and Mailchimp and sync your contacts to keep your records consistent across your apps. Taking a look at your existing business processes can help you gain better insights into the areas of your business that need improvement.
Big sheets of paper, post-it-notes, Sharpies and notebooks. If you’re a stationery nerd, now is your chance to go all out. If you have a bunch of thoughts going around your head, emptying it all out onto paper will help you organise your ideas and differentiate your strong ideas from the weaker ones. This will also give you physical space to elaborate on any ideas you already have and most likely will spark new ones.
What Are You Inspired By?
Inspiration comes in many forms and can be found in many places. But think about what or who inspires you. Why do you want to run your own business? Who were you inspired by? The answers to these questions may be specific or vague but can be useful in getting you to visualise what you might be capable of within your own scope. Remember it’s ok to take inspiration from others, for example, if you see a design from a competitor you like, you can take inspiration and change the design to make it your own, but you should never copy. Copying isn’t just bad practice, it can also get you into trouble if the business owner has copyright or trademark ownership, you could find yourself with a hefty breach of a copyright fee.
Friends and family are usually more than happy to lend a helping hand when you’re starting an exciting step towards a business. For most people, their friends and family are their first focus group, the people you run ideas by, taste test and try products and gather feedback from. If you have a good support network of friends and/or family, turning to them when in search of ideas can help you get productive. If you’re not confident enough about turning to your nearest and dearest you can try looking for a business mentor, someone who you can run your ideas through and will help you flesh out your ideas, most of these people charge for their services but if you’re serious about business, are worth the investment. Bouncing ideas off other people is useful as it takes your idea out of the silo that is your mind and gets you thinking about the development of your ideas.
Go For A Walk
The world is buzzing with sources of inspiration so who knows what you might be inspired by on your walk but more than that, taking a change of pace from your thoughts can be really beneficial for getting creative. In 2014, researchers at Stanford University found that walking can stimulate and improve creativity with most members of the study reporting that they felt they felt their “creative juices flowing” even when sitting down shortly afterwards. So taking a break from the brainstorming session and taking a walk around the house or around the block can help bust the idea block.
Look For What Isn’t There
Sometimes we focus on what other businesses are doing but it can be equally as valuable to look at what they aren’t doing, or what others might call “gaps in the market”. These are aspects of the business that other businesses either haven’t noticed before or simply aren’t doing because they can’t. These gaps might be things that your target market are missing out on and something you might be able to provide a solution for. The best place to start here is to look at what your competitors do and compare, then begin to look at what they don’t currently do/offer. Once you’ve identified these areas you can think about whether this is something you could do and whether it’s something your target market will want/need.
Join A Group
Facebook is swarming with entrepreneurial groups with people at various stages of their business meaning is a honeypot of support and resources. If Facebook isn’t the right platform for you, there are plenty of forums online that operate in the same way. Joining a group can give you access to other business owners who can offer advice on what you’re trying to achieve. You might post an idea in a group asking for feedback and receive responses from people who do something similar or may be able to support you with the next steps of your idea. Remember, the idea here is to gather valuable critique (good and bad), people might weigh in with an aspect that you haven’t thought about or they might be able to help you extend further on the initial idea you had.
It’s perfectly natural to feel wary that someone might take your ideas and run with them and unfortunately, there is nothing to protect yourself from this if it’s just an idea and you don’t have anything trademarked or copyrighted. So posting in these groups with your own creative ideas is at your own discretion but it’s still certainly worth joining a business group to network with other business owners.
The Survey Says
While you might think surveys are boring, they are actually invaluable. Surveys allow you to collect information from your target audience about just about anything you want to know. You might want to know what your audience thinks about certain products or services, how they might respond to certain marketing campaigns, how much money they are willing to spend on your idea etc. This will provide you with insights into how your audience thinks and is therefore likely to respond to your business ideas. There are many ways you can conduct surveys. Today, the most common way to collect surveys is online with a survey builder. These builders don’t just collect information. As well as collecting surveys, you can also use your chosen survey builder to analyse the data and produce analytical outcomes of each question/response.
Surveys are just one way to research and depending on what level you are at in your business, research might look different to you. The internet is a great source of research in terms of looking for inspiration, recognising and researching your competitors and looking at your target market. However, your research might also be in the real world. Say you want to set up an artisanal bakery, it makes sense to seek out popular artisanal bakeries and check them out. Immersing yourself in spaces that are similar to your own venture can help get the creative juices flowing.
Research can bring forth ideas but it can also act as a validator for ideas you already have. If you already have a bunch of ideas but need to extend on your idea or work out whether they might even work at all, research is the most important step you’ll take. And it might take some time but it is totally worth it. Skipping the research stage of your ideas could result in you missing vital information or losing money if you’ve already laid some financial investment down.
Finally, Go Slow
Starting up a new business or even trying to drum up new ideas when you already run a business is exciting and can be equally as frustrating. You may be eager to come up with new ideas and solutions but the truth is that they don’t always come easily or instantly. So as hard as it may be, it’s a good idea to try and relax, don’t let yourself feel too pressured and let the ideas come naturally.
Running a business isn’t easy and real creativity takes time and hard work. The trick is to go at your own pace, try not to go it alone and instead, network, ask for advice and support, look at your business (if you already run one) and look at the businesses of your competitors. All of these strategies work, but some might not work for you while they will work for others, so finding what sparks your creativity may take a while. Once you find out what works for you, you’re free to let your creativity go wild and generate all sorts of ideas. Good luck!