Perhaps you are an aspiring business owner and you want to start a small business, but you just don’t have any startup ideas. That’s where brainstorming comes in it’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing and create a comfortable space to come up with lots of new ideas all at once, and after a good brainstorming session you can be well on your way to your own profitable business.
Brainstorming is a creative process where a person or group sits down with a problem in mind and spontaneously contributes solutions to that problem. Brainstorming methods can be as simple as making lists or as detailed as making a mind map. It usually happens during the beginning stages of a project, and its goal is to end up with a large number of ideas to help define the problem and all of the possible creative solutions. You can brainstorm using a whiteboard, online software, or just a piece of paper and a pen.
- Go for quantity. While brainstorming, you may feel yourself wanting to focus on only a small number of ideas try to resist this urge! Coming up with as many of your own ideas as possible will help you unlock new avenues of thought, and you can keep building off of your old ideas to come up with better ones for even better brainstorming.
- Don’t judge the ideas. Creativity can be severely dampened by inhibitions; when you’re worried about the quality of every idea you have, you often won’t be able to generate enough ideas to really explore your imagination. For truly effective brainstorming, let yourself think freely and go wild save the judgments for later.
- Brainstorm in a group of people. Where possible, try brainstorming with at least one other person. Everyone’s minds are a little different, and bringing a few team members in to offer ideas from different perspectives is often the best way to explore ideas you wouldn’t have come up with during individual brainstorming.
The brainstorming process is the perfect way to generate great business ideas for business experts and beginners alike because it’s all about creative ideation and problem-solving, and it avoids putting limitations or restraints on your thoughts. If you want to start a new business but you’re not sure what kind of business model to use, following a few brainstorming steps can help you unlock your imagination and find just the right brilliant idea for a successful business.
- Brainstorm Your Purpose
When brainstorming ideas for a business, a great starting point is to find the thing that will keep pushing you forward, otherwise known as your “why.” Why are you doing this? Why is it important?
There are three pillars of a business’s purpose:
What you enjoy doing. You want your business to focus on something you enjoy—otherwise, you won’t enjoy running it. This can go beyond business and encompass hobbies and types of activities, like “telling a story.”
What you are good at in life and at work. Ideally, your business should take advantage of the skills that you’ve already developed whether that’s something as job-specific as coding or as universal as listening to people. You may not have the most experience in an industry, but think about this: Are you a person who knows a niche intimately for another reason? Might the people making products in a specific industry not have your unique ideas and knowledge about those products? You may know more about what you want to make than all of the people who are already making products like it.
How you want to serve the world. The best way to come up with this list is to ask yourself what pain points you’re aware of what is the unmet need that you can fill. If you’re having a hard time answering this question, consider making a log of every product, design, or processes you come across that bothers you, and then offer a few solutions. During this process, it’s vital that you outline your potential customers, as well who will you be serving, and how? Knowing your target audience and target market will help you further define your purpose.
While you’re brainstorming your purpose, you should constantly ask yourself “why”: Why doesn’t a certain product exist? Why isn’t a rudimentary task done in a more efficient way? Why hasn’t any product or service within a specific space evolved in a while?
- 2. Let Your Mind Wander
Give yourself some room to dream by putting yourself in a creative mindset. Go someplace where you know you won’t be interrupted for instance, your bedroom, or somewhere in nature and start by getting quiet. Spend a few minutes wiping your mind of other tasks and worries. Focus on creating a blank slate upon which to sketch some business ideas.
If you’re having a hard time finding out where you do your best thinking, try this: Every day for a week, spend 20 minutes brainstorming in seven different places. After the week is over, evaluate which place let you be the most creative. Once you find the place, spend another week thinking in that space for at least 20 minutes per day. If you realize that you rarely find yourself in your best thinking space, make a manageable change in your routine to put you there more regularly. Maybe that means fabricating a commute, or maybe it means foregoing your favorite podcast while you shower so you can brainstorm ideas instead.
Once you have a good list of business ideas, it’s time to start doing some research to hone and focus the ideas. If you’re just starting out in your industry, then you may not know what questions to even ask about your business, so you should start by doing some basic research of your industry do some Google searches of its history, or go to your local library and take out some books about the field you’re entering. That will prepare you with knowledge that manufacturers may not expect from someone just entering their world and could engender some respect.
- Filter Your Idea
So, you’ve collected some solid ideas and done some research, but you still need to figure out which one is your idea so you can start making your business plan.
Three common filters that successful entrepreneurs will use to hone in on their top priorities are time, money, and resources. You can evaluate each idea based on those priorities to determine which creative ideas are really feasible for you. To evaluate your ideas, ask yourself these questions of every idea on your list:
- How hard is it going to be to make this product?
- How much will it cost to make?
- How many manufacturers will it take?
- How much will it cost to ship?
- How heavy is the product?
- How big of a team do you need to help you make and sell your product?
You can also use SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to help evaluate your brainstorming ideas.
- Name Your Business
It may seem strange to think about naming so early in the brainstorming process, but there’s a reason a name can help you early on: when you name something, it makes it feel more real. Giving your business or product a name now can help give your ideas life and energy.
To come up with some names for your business or product, try playing a little word-association game during your brainstorming session. Without thinking too hard, focus on your business and quickly write down the first five to ten words that come to mind. Now play around with those words combine them or change a letter or two, and see what you can come up with.
- Develop Your Idea Before You Share It
Communication and validation are part of human nature. When you come up with an idea you love, you may feel the need to share it right away with the people closest to you. But sharing your ideas too soon can cause problems: sharing ideas leads to immediate feedback, and that feedback may not always be helpful, even if it comes from a place of love or concern. You may be elated about your idea for a new product only to be met with doubt from your friends and family.
If you take the time to really work on and develop your idea doing the market research, asking yourself all of the pertinent questions regarding your time, money, and resources you’ll have thought about all of its potential successes and pitfalls. That means you’ll have answers ready when friends or family come at you with their skepticism. What’s more, any negative feedback you might get won’t likely lead to you abandoning your project; you can be confident in the work you’ve already done.
Even if you don’t share your idea with your friends and family right away, there are some people you should speak to about it. Consider getting lawyers and manufacturers involved early on you’ll need people to help you create your prototype or defend your idea by establishing intellectual property rights or getting a patent.
Creative and entrepreneurial ideas for small businesses often come about after a series of brainstorming sessions. Brainstorming can be an effective way to think without limitations or restraint. It works well when there are several people doing it together because it will allow you to bounce ideas back and forth and stimulate comments and consideration. Large companies and corporations often hire expensive consultants to imagine and develop their ideas. Small businesses may not have the same budgetary resources, but they can still tap into the creativity of their leaders. Brainstorm small business ideas by getting smart and creative people together to share thoughts on how you can initiate and maintain a successful new business.
Define the objective of your brainstorming session. You need to know what you hope to gain from brainstorming. Whether you hope to clarify a business model, come up with a business idea or product, or find a solution to a customer need, you have to be absolutely clear about the purpose of your discussions. What do you want to have in the end? Write this objective down and place it prominently in your brainstorming space to keep you and your team on track.
Come up with a starting point: Regardless of whether or not you have an actual business idea yet, you need a starting point from which your other brainstorming ideas can flow. Small business ideas typically start as something the founder notices, like some kind of unmet need in his or her community or an idea that they have to improve a process. These can be sudden insights or the result of noticing small things through years of work in a certain industry or profession. Whatever idea you have that has caused you to bring people together and think up a small business, define it, and then move forward from there. It is also important to clearly and succinctly define the starting point or the impetus for the brainstorming session so that everyone is focused on the same input and outcome.
The most successful companies started with a combination of a recognized need in the market and a new technology. For example, Google combined people’s need to find things easily online with their proprietary search technology. A good starting place could be either one or both, of these two parts.
Decide what you want from your business idea: Your starting point doesn’t necessarily have to be a solid business or product idea. Instead, it can be a goal, like making money, creating a unique product, or gaining market share. This is more difficult to start with, as you have no guidance on deciding what exactly your future business will do or make. However, this also opens up limitless possibilities. And even if you do have a solid idea, determining what you want from your business can help you with long-term planning.
Brainstorm with a group of people: Do not invite people who will think the same way as you. Successful brainstorming comes from different opinions and perspectives. Allow these people to share their own viewpoints, problems, and experiences. For example, you could brainstorm with small business experts or set up a meeting with a mentor or a business leader who you respect and admire.
- Pitch your ideas to the expert and welcome any feedback. Be willing to hear positive comments and negative criticism.
- Express your gratitude to everyone who helped. Few people brainstorm on their own, so be sure to say thanks to the team who brainstormed with you. Time is a valuable resource, and people will appreciate your acknowledgment of their help and insight.
Set up your brainstorming location: Your brainstorming location is almost as important as the team that you select. Make sure to choose a relatively quiet location, free of outside distractions or noise. Then, remove all electronic devices from the room, except for computers used for research. Provide team members with individual notepads to write down ideas. Have a whiteboard, chalkboard, or large pad in a central location to keep track of everyone’s ideas.
- Consider playing music to enhance creative thought. Try using classical music without words.
- Provide drinks, like water or coffee, to keep your team hydrated and focused.
- It may help your team to get out of the area where you usually meet, like going on a retreat or simply going outside to a park. Changing your surroundings can help you see new perspectives and change your thought patterns.
Research relevant subject matter: Read articles, search the Internet and watch videos about subjects that are relevant to the business ideas you are brainstorming. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make. You should also look at any past attempts you or anyone else has made to solve the problem you are addressing or fix the product you are focused on. What did they do right? Where did their attempt go wrong? Bringing this type of context to your discussions can help shape your own ideas.
- Learn about the industry you are hoping to get into. Look at its organization, major players, and relevant government regulations.
- You can also reach out to business connections of yours who are involved in this industry to get their thoughts on certain aspects of the market.
Think independently: Have your group members brainstorm the idea individually and then collect their notes in a Google doc or drop box folder. Then, have everyone review everyone else’s ideas individually and come up with new thoughts. Finally, come together as a group and share these new ideas. That way, you start off with a broader base of ideas.
Question market assumptions: Many successful startups are disruptive in that they offer something completely new to the market that eventually changes how that market functions. Think about Uber or Airbnb, which have perfected new solutions to common problems. These were solutions that no one was sure would work in practice and that stood against the current status quo of their respective markets.
- To start, try breaking down a consumer need or imperfect product into its essence. What service is being provided? Ignore current solutions to think of news ways that the problem can be solved.
- Address current assumptions about that product or service directly by writing them down. Then, think of ways around those assumptions or ways to replace them.
- Some successful new companies simply make a change to the prevailing business model of their industries, not necessarily changing the product offerings or need to be addressed. Don’t focus so much on your offering that you forget the potential benefits of a better business model.
Honor all suggestions and ideas: Brainstorming cannot work if limitations are put on the creative process. Treat every idea by each member of the brainstorming idea the same way, developing it and asking questions until it is either deemed impractical or it graduates to the “good idea” list. Agree to consider all ideas, regardless of how impossible they seem.
In fact, coming up with terrible ideas can be beneficial to your creative process. Try coming up with the worst ideas you can think of (illegal, impractical, or expensive ideas). Then, try to change those ideas to make them better ideas. This process can help you think of your problem in new ways.
Ask questions: Brainstorming requires that you ask specific and general questions about every aspect of each idea. Try to ask questions that force your team to consider alternatives, rethink assumptions, or continue with their current train of thought. Leave your questions open-ended and allow your team members ample time to think and respond.
Document your brainstorming session: Assign a group member to be the secretary or scribe for the meeting. Have them record everything discussed, ideas that you choose to move forward with, and your progress or stopping point. This will allow you to pick up where you left off when you have your next session.
Repeat your brainstorming session: It’s not likely that you will come up with your million-dollar idea on your first try. Be persistent and meet regularly with your brainstorming group or with different groups to come up with new ways of thinking. Your idea may come to you in a later session or at a completely unexpected time. Just make sure to save your notes from previous sessions so that you don’t lose any progress.
Be sure to evaluate your process. When you finish your brainstorming, take some time to note what worked well and what did not work for you in coming up with small business ideas. This will help you in future brainstorming and strategy sessions.
When it comes to staying focused, we’ve all struggled with this at some point or another, and the previous two points will help ensure that you’re doing everything in your power to stay the course. To keep your focus, it’s important to make your plan of action easy to reference. If you ever begin to waiver on your goal, use your plan of action to stay focused and maintain any momentum you may have built up.
A great way to stay focused is by surrounding yourself with your goal. Post it on your refrigerator, on your bathroom mirror, on your coffee maker. Make sure you’re never far from it. If you want that promotion, post the title of the job around your home. This will help you keep your eyes on the prize, especially if you ever lose sight of what you’re doing.
Identifying when you are at your most focused is vital when it comes to fleshing out this step. If you find that you are at your most focused during the morning, create a schedule that allows you to work on the more difficult tasks in the morning, and vice versa if you’re a night owl, have a day job, or function best in the evenings. Working during your peak hours helps to ensure that your best work is being produced during this time. Seeing the results of your hard work each day is also a great way to ensure you keep working, which will increase your focus. Still having trouble focusing while working on a task? Try leaning back and taking a few, deep breaths every time you’re in the middle of work and you feel your attention slipping to less important things. This little break will give your brain just the right amount of rest between tasks.
It’s said that starting is the most difficult step to initiating change in your life, but many of us struggle with continuing when we’re midway through. We become tired, we content ourselves with the work we’ve done, especially when the steps ahead of us seem complex and exhausting. This can only weaken your resolve and keeping the end goal in mind is a great way to ensure you’re pursuing exactly what you need to.
Develop a Timeline: Now that you have your specific goal in place, you have an action plan, and tools and practices that will help keep you on track, you need a timeline. All goals should be driven by a timeline, meaning there is a clear moment where you’re meant to begin and when you’re meant to have your goal accomplished. If you don’t establish a set date, you wish to be done with your goal; you’ll be hard pressed to find motivation to complete it, as you’ll have ample time to work on the steps in your action plan, which often translates into progress happening too slowly or not at all.
To effectively combat this, establish a set time you wish to have each of your goals completed by. It’s important to be specific when you’re doing this. Don’t just settle for wanting to have something complete by a month, decide upon the exact date. This will help keep you on track and serve as a motivator, if you need help to ignite the fires beneath you. This will help you track your progress, a concept we will cover much more in depth at a later point in this book.
Be as specific as possible when you’re developing your timeline. Break it down to what you hope to accomplish within each day from the time you begin your goal to the time you wish to have it complete. You’ll be referencing this timeline every day, so make sure you communicate your intentions as specifically as possible and with a clear mind. If you don’t understand the goals you set forth for yourself at the beginning of your journey, you’re hindering yourself. Here are a few points to consider when creating a timeline:
- Write your goal at the top of your timeline.
- Write each step down so that it corresponds with a date.
- Try to anticipate how long each task will take.
- Identify important milestones.
When you first set out to tackling the steps that will bring you closer to your goal, make sure it’s in a format that you can easily carry around with you, so you can reference it whenever you need. Carve out a sizable chunk of time for yourself to make sure you’ve covered every part of what needs to happen in order for you to succeed. Your timeline will also serve as a guide. When combined with your action plan, you’ll know exactly how much you have to accomplish in order to fulfill your goal. Time passes consistently and is a great way to motivate yourself. You’ll also have no trouble seeing the individual parts of the whole as they fit into the larger plan.
Complete bigger tasks first:
Much of our anxiety with goals comes from the sheer size of all that we have to accomplish in order to reach our goal. If you’ve sectioned off your goal into smaller, more manageable points, and you’ve organized them from the most difficult to least difficult, you’re probably tempted to start working on the least difficult tasks first. They seem like simple, short tasks, and you may be thinking, “I’ll start with these, so I’ll be properly warmed up when I need to start working on that large project.” This method of working, however, isn’t linked to success, and can only harm you in the long run.
Remember that immediate gratification we mentioned earlier? By completing the smaller tasks first, you’re giving into that immediate and smaller sense of gratification, which doesn’t serve us well in the long run. Delayed gratification is a much more positive experience and allows you the chance to leverage your momentum for the smaller tasks that follow.
There’s also a higher level of positive association when larger, more difficult tasks are completed, as opposed to smaller ones. Comparable to a runner’s high, this completion high, is a great way to motivate yourself as you set out to complete each step in your action plan, thereby placing you closer to your goal.
This is also a great chance for you to discover any difficult hurtles that may spur you to adjust your plans. These hitches are best discovered in the beginning of working toward your goal, rather than the middle, when your motivation may be affected, and the slightest change may deter you from completion.
If you start with the easier tasks first, you make the harder ones seem all the more difficult by simple comparison. To follow through with the example of the promotion, let’s say you decide to read a few books on how to improve your interpersonal communication skills. The easy part, the actual purchasing of a book, should be done in the beginning, where you decide upon a book and set to read through it. But the reading is the difficult task. It may seem so much easier to just download several books with the intention of reading them later, but you should read that first book.
For this example, the difficult task is reading that first book, but it will ultimately help you in the long run. It will give you a clearer idea of what you wish to learn from the books you purchase after the first, meaning you’ll spend your time pursing the books that will actually further your goal. It may be easy to stock up five books now, and it may seem like you’re preparing properly, but you’re creating a larger hurdle for yourself later. Reading one book now is much easier than reading five books later.
We also experience a large amount of stress when we consider the larger task. This stress isn’t lessened by that feeling of satisfaction we experience by completing the smaller tasks. No matter how many small tasks we cross off our to-do list, the looming knowledge that we will have this large task to accomplish gives us more stress than actually tackling it in the first place. Stress is a factor that does not help us achieve our goals and only serves to hinder us in the long run.
A solid commitment has a better foundation in your life if you want what you’re working towards. If you aren’t fully committed to your goal, it will require twice the effort to accomplish, if you ever accomplish it. All of those steps you established in brainstorming your idea will seem like hurdles for you to overcome with a goal you’re not committed to. Your chances of enjoying the challenge will diminish, which will endanger your chances of properly absorbing information in the individual steps necessary to complete your goals. Without the information and the skills, you would get during this time spent trying to better yourself, your entire goal becomes endangered.
A lack of commitment differs from a lack of desire, though, and it’s important to note the distinction. You can desire that promotion all you want; daydream of it constantly, but desires and daydreams won’t help you better yourself to seem like the ideal candidate for the job. Commitment initiates change and you’ll be emboldened in your pursuit of your goals.
When deciding on a goal, it’s important to determine if you really want it. Anything worth doing will challenge you, and you’re likely to encounter moments where you want to give up and stop working towards your goal. Having a solid commitment will help you through these moments, so it’s important to work towards something that you really and truly want, rather than setting yourself up for potential and likely a failu