Blue sky thinking
It’s great to let your imagination go wild and think BIG! One of the challenges I see in business owners frequently is not thinking big enough when they have a great product or service. Successful business technology giants (Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft) all have time for their employees to get out of the day-to-day and think about great new products, developments, and inventions. They are allowed to let their imagination go wild!
Perhaps the most famous visible example is Google’s 20 percent time policy where employees are allowed to spend 20% of their time working on projects that will ultimately benefit Google’s parent company Alphabet. In the early days when it was first introduced, it was more actively encouraged but is still an option for employees when there are ideas worth developing.
If you haven’t got to the big idea yet and are still thinking about what you could develop then a few guidelines help to set, you on the right path. Brainstorming is more productive if you do it with someone, though don’t be put off if you are doing this alone.
There are a couple of guidelines that are good to follow to get the best out of the time spent:
- Start with any idea and just get the ideas flowing. The first step is “Don’t kill any idea” – they are all equal when they first get noted. Just write them or record them in some way ready to come back round to. Generate as many as you can. Note cards or post-it notes are a great way of getting individual ideas on paper. By all means use technology tools, though they can often be more challenging to distil and a lot easier to delete and ignore
- Describe the idea in as few words as possible, use pictures or illustrations too if that works. What the brain can imagine can be done so if you can describe it, picture it or draw it then it can be made real. It’s still only an idea at this point so don’t edit yet
- Ask: Is it big enough? Expand your ideas and don’t let small thinking get in your way. No matter how crazy, all great innovations came from crazy ideas that were then implemented
- Do not judge ideas at this stage. Some of the best products have grown out of a combination of crazy ideas and the imagination of the most unlikely people.
When you have a pile of amazing ideas you can distil them into functional ideas. Sometimes combining thoughts or taking one concept and applying it to a different problem can lead to the best product ideas. There are some excellent books on creative thinking that explore this is much more detail than I am capable of here. A couple of good ones are:
- One Plus One Equals Three by Dave Trott
- The Art of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins
- Gamestorming by Dave Gray and Sunni Brown
A Successful Business asks – What Problems am I solving?
One way of making sure you are focused on getting a product worth developing is stating with the phrase “How might we….?” This overcomes one of the biggest challenges in product development, which is finding a solution for something that isn’t a problem! Whilst “blue sky” thinking should encourage free form, unrestricted creativity, it still has a purpose – successful businesses are good at solving a problem that results in a product that can be sold to make money or make the world a better place – ideally both.
How many times have you seen an inventor so convinced that their product is going to save the world and make them a fortune? Yet the substance of what they have invented is more about the technology than the problem customers want solving. One of the biggest causes of failure in tech businesses is NO MARKET NEED. Creating problems for the solution you have thought of rather than a solution for a problem that is crying out to be solved is one of the biggest mistakes made in businesses across all sectors. In technology businesses it is often the case of applying a technology solution to something that is not a problem or has a simple analogue solution already.
As we will explore in the next chapter, focusing on the user is a good place to start! Creating the wrong product will guarantee your business will fail. As soon as you have the product concept and it passes the first test – does it solve a problem – then you are ready for the next stage. No matter how funky or ingenious your idea, if there is no market for it, it will flop.
There are a few classic examples – the Segway, which is still in production but never lived up to the hype (overcoming the problem of walking ?) and in the UK the Sinclair C5. Both products received a lot of hype and media coverage but neither lived up to consumer expectations, which was to get from A to B safely. Both products had flaws in their design and execution. The Segway does at least survive whilst the C5 faded away almost as quickly as it rose to our awareness. There is now a growing market for electric bicycles which grew out of both concepts.
Are you stuck in the day-to-day of your business with no time to plan for the future? A Professional Business Mentor is just the leverage you need to get out of the rut and flying. Discover how you can make your business worth more AND avoid leaving money on the table when you finally leave your business. Click here to contact Christine by email alternatively you can book a call with the Business Mentor of the Year 2020, author and speaker. Who helps business founders get their businesses exit ready so they can enjoy a happier, richer future. She saves them THOUSANDS and increases the value of their businesses by MILLIONS.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”