To grow our businesses we probably don’t need more money, but what we do need are better ideas. Stop worrying about new investors and lengthy business plans, and focus your attention on what really matters. If you want your business to thrive, you not only need better ideas for now, but for the road ahead, as well. This fact shouldn’t strike you with fear, but instead, it should make you realize how important the idea process is, and it should also excite you for what the future holds.
So, here are the five most important steps to create better business ideas:
1. To have better business ideas, you must begin with research.
José Scheuer, a lecturer in business and marketing at the London School of Business and Finance, says that market research is necessary because competition is tougher than ever. In a recent interview, José explained that small businesses compete in a much larger field than ever before, much due to the growth of e-commerce. And with the growth of e-commerce, other small businesses, and large businesses, it is often found that competitors have greater negotiating power to source products and sell them at cheaper prices. This is why you must not miss the competitor advantage that research gives you.
Research is what will separate you from everyone else and will only make you better. What are other people in your business space already doing? Steer clear from those ideas, and find your own niche. Research will tell you where you need to be now and in the future, as well.
Who can you reach out to that will make you and your business better? Research those in your field who are doing things right, and learn from them. How do they work, what positives can you take away from their work, and how can you make your business better than theirs?
Whichever area you need help with in your business, researching businesses who do things well and not so well will help you become better. You can always learn from the triumphs and mistakes of other businesses. It amazes me how easy of a concept this is, and yet people miss out on it time and time again. These are the same businesses asking themselves, “Why are we not effective?”, when there are tons of resources available to help them become better. You need research to become better, so you can impact more people.
2. To have better business ideas, you must build on your previous ideas.
Joel Gascoigne, the founder of Buffer, built his company on the ideas of other scheduling Twitter clients and apps that didn’t perform well. He extracted the good ideas from those apps, threw away the bad ones, and then made his own tweet scheduler to fit his own needs and the needs of many others.
If you aren’t familiar with Buffer, the main difference that sets it apart from other tweet schedulers is that it has created a way to queue up tweets based on the time of day where the most people can be reached, instead of scheduling each tweet individually, without knowing if your audience is even online to read your content. Joel’s idea with Buffer shows that rarely is one idea sufficient on its own, because ideas are meant to be built upon. If an idea comes to you, make sure to capture it, but never consider it your final idea. This is where the ideation process is given life.
My own practice is to grab two ideas that have one similarity or more, to see how they relate and to see how they’re different. Once I have an idea of how they fit together, I take two brand new ideas that are completely different from the first batch, and then find something similar between those two ideas. At the end, I take the first result and the second result, which are opposite in some way, and then try to connect the dots between the opposites to create an original idea. It’s time consuming, but it’s worth the extra effort every time.
3. To have better business ideas, you must encourage mistakes along the way.
Did you know that the slinky was the mistake product that came from attempting to build a meter designed to monitor power on naval battleships? The inventor, Richard Jones, was working with tension springs, and accidentally dropped one of them to the ground. When this happened, the spring kept bouncing from place to place after it hit the ground, thus creating the slinky.
Did you also know that, Spencer Silver, a researcher with 3M Laboratories, is the person who developed post-it notes by accident? He was trying to develop a strong adhesive, but instead found an adhesive that was weaker than what he needed. It stuck to objects, but could be pulled off easily without leaving a mark. A great invention, but it wasn’t what he was looking for at the time. However, it was this grand mistake that led to a later business idea: the post-it note.
Freedom in your workplace breeds creativity. This being said, to have better business ideas, you must learn to take risks, let go, and promote creativity. Yes, with trying new things there will always be mistakes that are made, but that’s okay. It’s actually the only way to learn along the way, and who knows, you may find the next slinky or post-it note. Better business ideas are only found when you are willing to combine creativity, risk, and the willingness to make mistakes.
Creativity + Risk + Making Mistakes = Better Ideas
4. To have better business ideas, you must realize that everyone on your team has something to give.
In 2015, when I heard that Alan Lafley would be stepping down as CEO of Procter & Gamble, I knew that it was a loss for P&G. Everyone in the business world knows him as a person who listened to his team, welcomed feedback, and promoted healthy communication throughout his organization. Of course, David Taylor is doing a fine job as the new CEO, and is working to fix the company’s agility with decision making, but Lafley was the one who laid the extremely important groundwork for a company who now thrives off of this idea that everyone has something to give. I can only wonder if Lafley will be able to continue building this environment as an executive chairman, or if Taylor will strive to continue leading his company with this mantra at the forefront of everything they do. But, what I do know is how important this concept is for a team to grab hold of, because this can be the difference between a team who finds success and a team who misses the mark.
Former First Lady, Barbara Bush said, “Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life’s blood. But everyone has something to give.” Yes, everyone has something to give, but individuals must be willing to look for opportunities to do so. It’s those people who you want to be on your team — the ones who want to change the world for the better.Everyone has something to give. Click To Tweet
You may have your go-to people who you seek out for help with ideas, but to have great ideas, you must see things from every perspective, not just the perspective of those who only agree with you. And the best way to do this is to have conversations with your diverse team. I say ‘diverse’ because if everyone thinks like you do, there will only be good ideas, not great ideas. You need to surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth, not only those who will agree with you. Build a team that works in different strengths than you do, and use those strengths to build better ideas for your business. The more input, the better, as it gives you more feedback and data to go off of. And the more feedback and data you have, the better your ideas will be.
5. To have better business ideas, you must know who your customer is.
The idea of Dollar Shave Club allows members to select blades, pay $3 to $9 per month for the cost of their blades, and DSC then sends those blades directly to their member’s doors every month. This idea sounded very different than anything that had been done previously in the shaving industry, but in 2011, Michael Dubin and Mark Levine knew they were onto something huge. Their idea proved to be successful, and as of right now they own 16% of the U.S. cartridge market by volume. Their rapid growth places DSC just ahead of Schick as the nation’s second-biggest brand. As for online razor sales, Dollar Shave Club commands nearly 50% market share, according to Slice Intelligence. So as you can see, their better business idea sparked interest and the company has been growing ever since.
Dollar Shave Club revolutionized the shaving industry, not only because they made the art of shaving easier for consumers, but because they are a company who understands their customers. They do this so well because they use data analytics to understand its member’s wants and needs. Sure, other companies collect this data, but not all companies dissect it, looking to improve in any area of business operations that they can. This is what sets Dollar Shave Club apart from so many other businesses. Looking at information and using it to their advantage allows them to deliver an outstanding customer experience every time. With over 2.2 million happy subscribers, they have proven that they will be around for a very long time, and their success is due to understanding that business is all about people.
It is only when you know who your ideas are for that you can focus your efforts towards their needs with your products. Too many times people will put limitations on their ideas first, which will never produce the best ideas. Thinking broader at first and then narrowing down ideas is the only way to produce better business ideas.
It is here that you can ask the questions, “Who is our customer?”, “What does my customer want and need?”, and “What can our company do exceptionally well to help our customers?” Great business ideas are found where the answers to all of these questions intersect.
When you conduct research, build on other ideas, encourage mistakes along the way, realize that everyone has something to give, and know who your customer is, you will immediately make a bigger impact with your better business ideas. Now go and have better business ideas, today.