If you read the post ‘How to Profit from the Alternative Rhythms of Time‘, you’ll be aware I recommended the ‘Springwise‘ website. It’s just one place to find new business ideas to kick-start your thinking and get your daily fix of innovative and entrepreneurial thoughts…
Springwise offers many opportunities. You can sign up to receive daily news, browse thousands of new ideas (all carefully segmented) and even submit your own proposal as a business start-up. Just a few hours of research should pay real dividends and will also connect you with a new community of like-minded people.
The power of Social Media
Like many new finds, I discovered Springwise through Twitter. This global social media channel is a rich source of new ideas and information too. For me, Twitter is great for promotion, but it’s even better for research because you quickly find yourself in places you never even knew existed.
For the record, other websites providing ideas, inspiration and advice include smarta.com and coolbusinessideas.com. One of the things I like about Smarta is the advice on the Home page which emphasises the need to be market focused when starting a new business.
Why didn’t I think of that?
When reviewing the recommended ‘idea sources’ don’t be put off by the apparent brilliance of others or believe that you don’t have the skills to think in such an innovative way. To find new ideas to start your business you need to be open minded and not place illogical barriers in the way of thinking.
Unfortunately, by the time any of us leave full time education, we’ve typically grown accustomed to a linear/vertical way of working. This is because we learn subjects in silos. As such, thinking across subjects (lateral), making new connections and seeing new ideas does not necessarily come easy. However, matters improve if this thinking flaw is understood and you’re prepared to look for inspiration or undertake basic research in less familiar places.
Apple founder Steve Jobs had a great ‘idea mind’. Whilst he dropped out of Reed College as a teenager, he hung around the campus in Portland. He then chose to ‘visit’ lessons that appealed to him and his way of thinking. In the highly readable official biography and address to Stanford University he talks about this part of his life and in particular his attendance at a Calligraphy course – simply because it fascinated him. Years later, what he learnt about calligraphy and fonts became a cornerstone of the Apple revolution.
By looking around and seeing links between subjects, Steve Jobs saw opportunities, new ideas and thus gaps in the market. Jobs looked for the ‘intersection’ of subjects. For example, when PCs were mass produced in ugly metal boxes he recognised the need for something different. He saw the opportunity to intertwine technology and the liberal arts and beautiful computers resulted. Later, with iTunes, he fused music with technology.
Ideas through people
Meeting and networking with people is a essential method to source/nurture new ideas. A group of individuals (with different talents) that work well together is able to look at an issue from more than one perspective and can then harvest and refine ideas more quickly. It’s of little surprise that many new team-based businesses are seeded in university or college life.
In fact education is like hitchhiking, in that it provides an opportunity to meet new people from different backgrounds. For me, travelling for over 10 years as a hitchhiker made it possible to see things in different ways. Critically, it helped me to understand that my take on an issue or way of seeing the world was often only shared by a minority.
Tip! Just because you might think an idea is good, share and test it with others before you put too much energy and time into it.
The whole subject of how and where ideas are developed will continue to fascinate me. When Enterprise educator Dave Jarman was at the University of Bristol recently he recommended that I buy the book ‘Where good ideas come from‘ by Steven Johnson. So I did.
It’s a mind-shifting read because the text examines the intersection of subjects and explores how environments influence innovation. Doubtless I will review it in more detail on this Blog, but if you want a taste of what Stephen is saying, have a look at him explaining his thinking on this TED film.
Key Learning Points: Use freely available sources to nurture thinking and find new business ideas to kick-start your thinking. Explore different perspectives, use lateral thinking and meet people. Look for the intersection between subjects for real business opportunities.