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#67 [20.03.2006]

Generating Ideas to Overcome Business Downturn

By Nowshade Kabir ©

Generating Ideas to Overcome Business Downturn

It happened unexpectedly! Your business was doing pretty well. Sales were good. Customers were more or less satisfied. But one fine morning you started to notice that the sales started to diminish! You decided to take preventive steps. You have been in this type of situation earlier too, but have managed to overcome. Not this time!

This time it’s as if you have hit a wall. No matter how you try, things don’t improve. You realize that you need to come up with some innovative ideas to drastically change the present quandary, but nothing is coming to your mind that may have radical effect. What to do?

Sounds familiar? In every aspect of life, at one point or another, we end up in similar situation where we desperately need new ideas, but can’t generate them. While we were kids things were a lot different. A kid’s mind is a generator of great, sometimes devious but always a profuse supplier of creative ideas. Over time, due to the lack of enough lateral thinking, predictable life style, educational system emphasizing on memorizing and judgmental society we slowly start to loose our innate ability of producing innovative ideas.

A huge truck loaded with containers got stuck under a bridge of a small road. The problem was just in a few millimeters. This has created a traffic jam. Drivers were coming out of their cars. All had been thinking what to do. Nobody had a solution. A kid was passing by on a bicycle. He stopped to see what the hullabaloo was about. After observing the situation, he immediately proposed the truck driver to deflate the tires to the extend that it could pass through easily. The solution was rather simple but adults with their conventional thinking process could not produce it!

Whether you are in need of a new marketing idea, an innovative product, a story plot, or need to find solutions to problems, the following methods will help you ignite your creativity and produce results.

Specify your objective.

If you are working on achieving a goal or objective, specify it in definite terms. This means describing your present situation and what you are planning to achieve. If you are working on a problem, define the problem as clearly as possible. If your sales are diminishing, the possible problems could be a competitor launching a better product, your product's quality needing improvement, the clients are considering the price too high, your sales people are not performing as needed. You will be amazed to see how deep you might have to dig in order to outline the problem accurately, but it is worth the work.

Define and visualize ideal outcome

Once you are certain about the objective and defined it as precisely as possible, the next step is to clarify the expected result. If this is a problem, define what will be the outcome if you resolve it. If your sales are falling, the outcome could be increased sales to existing customers, broaden customer range, opening a new niche, etc.

Visualize the outcome in quantifiable and precise manner. Use all four elements of visualization to stimulate your brain. These are clarity, length, intensity and frequency. The clearer you can see the picture of the outcome, the longer you can visualize it with earnest desire to achieve it and the more often you see this, the better are chances of generating more innovative ideas to attain the goal.

Gather information

Once you know what you would like to achieve and where you are standing gather all the relevant information surrounding this issue. This often requires extensive research, such as reading extra related materials, analyzing markets, finding statistics and other data, attending seminars and conventions, talking to the experts, etc. Facts could be specific to your industry or they could be generic, which you might retrieve from the Internet and other numerous sources. Every time you add new and relevant information to your knowledge base you increase your brain’s ability to come up with a whole new idea.

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Avoid stereotyping

Often we are unable to generate original ideas, because our perception is too biased. To overcome this you have to start asking questions. Don’t be afraid of asking dumb questions. Aristotle once said, “When you ask a dumb question you a get a smart answer.” There are six universal questions that we can ask. These are What, Where, When, How, Why and Who. To tear down a problem to more basic parts, you should always ask these questions first. By asking these questions, eventually, you will come to more significant questions.

Think out of the box

Forget about the conventional method you use to find a solution for good! Old method of thinking will bring same old answer. Out of the box thinking helps you getting to the root of the problem. You can achieve this by asking the question why relentlessly. Here is what Innovation Speaker Elaine Dundon in her book “The Seeds of Innovation” said, "Creative thinking begins with great questions, not answers. Great creative thinkers stay with the question instead of rushing to find an immediate solution. They ask more questions than the average person and are comfortable in the often uncomfortable situation of not immediately having the answer."

Try absurd combinations

Innovations are combinations of old ideas. Walkmans are combination of headphones and tape recorder. Deodorant rolls are combination of pencil and fragrance. Internet is full of ideas borrowed from offline businesses. Try associating irrelevant, absurd and ridiculous things, industries, and geographical areas to the problem or goal. Ask “what if” question like: what if I add this to my problem, what if I start from the end not from the beginning. These associations and questions will force your imagination flow and spark incredible ideas. "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create" said Einstein.

Relax and forget about the problem you were working on

Once you have done everything possible to generate ideas, it is time to relax and let your subconscious mind to work on the problem. Leonardo Da Vinci knew this very well: “Every now and then go away, even briefly, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer; since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose power.”

Here is a list of idea generating relaxation methods:

  • Exercising
  • Sleeping
  • Getting away on a mini-vacation
  • Meditating
  • Working on house cores

Most probably the most interesting ideas will come to your mind while you are not thinking about your problem actively. When you got your first great idea, don’t stop, keep on working, as you need at least two to three ideas to choose from.

Another thing is make sure to write down the idea the moment it came to your mind. Otherwise you might loose it forever.

By using the above mentioned methods you can generate unique ideas. But this is not enough. You have to formulate your ideas and put them into action! Many great ideas die in their incubation period as the innovators don’t have the right vision to bring them to reality.

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About the author
Nowshade Kabir is the founder, primary developer and present CEO of A Ph. D. in Information Technology, he has wide experience in Business Consulting, International Trade and Web Marketing. Rusbiz is a Global B2B Emarketplace with solutions to start and run online business. Click here to contact him.