Idea Incubation

Coming up with great ideas doesn't come naturally to everyone, here are some ways that you can stimulate your mind and become the idea generator in-chief

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Shot of two young business colleagues working in modern office. Coworkers discussing business ideas.
Shot of two young business colleagues working in modern office. Coworkers discussing business ideas.

Most entrepreneurs find it easy to come up with ideas, but then they find it difficult to actually put those ideas in place and get results.

If you’re looking to generate ideas and you’re struggling there are some things you can focus on that will help you get results pretty quickly.

The first thing you need to do is expand your circle. You will find that when you’re talking with more people, you’re going to gravitate to the right people, learn from them, get ideas from them, and you’re going to be able to run your ideas past them.

I recommend that everyone become part of a mastermind. A mastermind is the concept that when you combine one brain with another brain, the combination of those two brains forms a master brain that sparks more and better ideas. I’ve been using the mastermind concept for over ten years now, and I’ve often found that I might have had a good idea, but I knew that something was missing or I didn’t quite know how to take the idea to the next level. In those circumstances, I have been able to run those ideas past people and expand on them and develop them into great ideas more quickly than I would have on my own.

Being around people who are playing at a high level and who you can talk with about your ideas can make a big difference in your life.

If you search for ideas, they will come. Many people struggle to come up with ideas and bring them to life because they get stuck in their daily life. Remember that you have two businesses: the business you are right now, and the business that you’re becoming. You always need to be working on both, being strategic and coming up with new ideas.

Another way that I come up with new ideas all the time is I’m always listening and absorbing new information. I listen to podcasts, online programs, and I’m always reading books because they feed my mind.

When you feed your mind, you will find that you can come up with ideas that make a big difference to your business and your life. Even if you have to pay to get those ideas, it’s often worth it just to progress them and make sure they come to life.

Keeping a diary of your ideas can also have a great impact on your ability to generate new ideas. I write about two pages in my diary every day, writing about the new things I want to do and I’m constantly analyzing and moving my ideas forward. If you prefer to work on a computer, there is some great free software that will help you track your ideas such as Trello which is a great free program I use where you add your ideas and track what actions you’re taking to bring them to life.

Don’t keep your ideas all to yourself. Many people are afraid of sharing their ideas because they’re afraid they’ll be stolen—some even go so far as to have people sign nondisclosure agreements. The reality is that if you’re keeping your idea to yourself and you’re trying to protect it all the time, your idea probably isn’t ever going to go anywhere.

The only way ideas take shape and come to life is by discussing them with other people. It’s important that you talk with people you trust and respect, but you do need to talk with people to help you think through your idea. You’ll likely need to make some amendments and tweaks to your idea that in the end will make it better.

Draw it out. I have a massive whiteboard in my office, and I’m constantly using it to write out and draw my ideas. It often helps to draw out the journey of your idea, how you think it will and should progress. You can draw it out on a flip chart, or in your diary or journal.

When is it that you come up with great ideas?

You likely have a pattern. For me, if I’m on a vacation I start to relax, and that’s when my mind starts to get creative, and I come up with some great ideas. Think is about how and when you get your ideas and be prepared to write them down and play them out in your head and on the page.

When you’re working out new ideas, the first thing you want to do is determine how passionate you are about it. Score your ideas on a scale of one to ten. If you’re not very passionate about the idea, and you give it a three, you’re probably not going to see it through to fruition, so leave it alone for now. If you give your idea an eight, then go for it.

Then score your idea on the need for it in the marketplace. If there’s a need for your idea, it’s going to be much better received. Then score the feedback you’ve received from people on the idea. You’ve talked to some people about it, they’ve given you some feedback, and now rate what you heard. Was it an absolute hit with everyone, or was the feedback temperate?

Remember that you want to be getting feedback from people outside your family and friends who will only say great things—your mum, your dad, and your grandparents are probably just going you tell you your idea is the best thing ever. You need to ask some people that you know, but make sure they won’t instinctively say that your idea is the best thing since sliced bread.

Now score your idea on the opportunity it has to make money. This is important even if the idea of making money isn’t that important to you. You could use the idea to make money for charity, or it could make money for your niece or nephew’s college fund. The more money you can make from the idea, the more impact you can make in your life and other people’s lives.

The final things you need to score are your skill sets. What skill sets do you require or what skill sets do you have that will be needed to see your idea take shape?

You can have an idea for the most amazing app in the world, but if you don’t know anything about computers and you’ve never coded anything in your life, you’re going to have a hard time getting it off the ground. You’re either going to need to find someone with the skills, or you’re going to have to learn the skills.

Now try this:

Take one of your ideas and give it scores based on how passionate you are about it, the need for it in the market, the feedback you’ve received on it, the opportunity it has to make money, and the skills set you would need to make it happen.

Then, if you have a high-scoring idea, move it forward by writing down five immediate actions you can take right now to bring this idea to life. These actions could include raising funds, making phone calls, speaking with a developer, getting training in something you’re not great at, or performing a financial forecast for the idea.

If you take those five actions, you will be taking the idea from the concept stage to actually bringing it to life and allowing it to get gain momentum. You’re also going to see the idea start to take shape, and you’re going to know how you feel about it and whether it’s still something you want to proceed with.

Regardless of whether or not you decide to move forward with it, you will have given the idea an initial analysis—kicking the tires, so to speak—and you’ll be that much closer to bringing something to life that wasn’t alive before.

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