The most successful businesses are the ones with the innovative ideas. And not just one good innovative idea — you, and your team, if you have one — need to be coming up with innovative ideas on an ongoing basis.
You need to be innovative with your product or services, your marketing methods, sales tactics, and virtually every other aspect of your business (but don’t get too innovative with the bookkeeping!).
Not even the most innovative innovator comes up with new and exciting ideas every day. That shouldn’t even be your goal.
Your goal should be to always be trying to cultivate innovative ideas to share.
6 Way to Push Yourself to Come Up With Innovative Ideas
Try adopting some of these simple methods to keep the good ideas flowing:
#1 Actually Go to a Networking Event Once in Awhile
You don’t have to be a social butterfly if you don’t want to, but if you ignore every mixer, panel, workshop, and convention out there, you’re missing out on a lot of potential for new ideas.
Industry and networking events can be invigorating — you meet new people, hear other people’s ideas, and get into the loop as far as the latest happenings in your industry (some of which might sound like gossip, but it can still be enlightening).
Try to do at least one bigger event like an industry convention every year, and hit a small networking event once a month or so.
This is especially important if you’re an independent contractor who works alone.
#2 Casually Brainstorm
Obviously, brainstorming sessions are a great way to come up with new ideas. But the best brainstorming sessions aren’t always those planned 90 minute breakfast meetings with free bagels. Sometimes, brainstorming just happens.
You can start casual brainstorming off by asking a simple question to a partner or employee — ask how a project is going, and if they seem frustrated, ask what is holding them back or causing the project to not move as smoothly as possible.
This can open up a dialogue that can lead to innovative solutions and ideas — and it can be done in just a few minutes by the water cooler.
#3 Think Smaller
When we think of innovative ideas, we tend to think big: The iPhone was an innovative idea. Electricity was an innovative idea.
Changing the world with your ideas is a worthy goal, but some of the most innovative ideas are small things that improve your business.
It doesn’t have to be a new product or platform, innovation can be as simple as coming up with a plan to stay focused after lunch or to save time on social media posting.
When you start looking at even mundane ideas as small innovations, you’re keeping your brain in idea mode.
That way, when you’re on the spot to come up with a great idea for a client’s project or a pitch, you won’t have to switch gears drastically.
#4 Focus on Problems
Not to be negative, but thinking about problems leads to innovation. Sometimes everyday problems are so much a part of their lives that they’re invisible.
Think about what an inconvenience it was to withdrawal money and transfer funds before ATMs and online banking — it would be difficult for most people to go back to all in-person banking, but before banking was innovated with technology, the inconveniences were just a fact of life.
If you become conscious of the fact that an everyday inconvenience is a problem to be solved, ideas will start coming.
It’s not just everyday inconveniences. As your clients, partner(s), and others involved with your business the biggest problem they’re having, even if they don’t think there’s a problem. A solvable problem will most likely be recognized.
#5 Come Up With Ridiculous Ideas
One of the biggest things holding you back from coming up with great ideas is pressure.
You and your team are there, sitting around a table, and you need innovative ideas now. Do you ever find yourself opening your mouth to voice an idea, and stop yourself short because you’re afraid you’ll sound absurd?
You’re probably not the only one at the table holding back. Start your formal brainstorming sessions with an exchange of ridiculous ideas. Things that would never be feasible financially, logistically, or realistically.
Not only does this break up any tension (especially if you need to come up with great ideas under the wire), it can open up a dialogue that turns into something productive.
#6 Learn Something New
As a business owner, you most likely don’t have the time to go back to school even part time, but there are options for learning that require minimum time, and can give your brain a jump-start.
Join a photography club, teach yourself how to use a new program, or take part in a one-day workshop to sharpen your sales skills.
Almost anything you can learn can make you a more innovative thinker, because it forces you out of your mental routine.
Not only that, new skills can give you a new perspective on the problems you face. As an innovative thinker, you should always be learning, one way or another.
#7 Talk and Listen
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if your feel like you’ve hit a brick wall. The goal of asking is not to have someone else give you good ideas, but to have someone who will listen to you talk it out.
Just talking about it, out loud, to another person, can make a world of difference.
Conversely, you should be a listener for others on your team when they need it.
Just the talking (or the listening) could be enough to come up with a great idea. If not, you’ve started a dialogue that can help to get you there.
#8 Take a Break
You’ve heard anecdotes about big ideas hitting successful people in the shower, and it makes sense, if you think about it. In the shower, you’re brain is (or should be) on downtime mode.
With the stress and pressure dialed down, great ideas can rise to the top.
An afternoon shower might not be feasible, but a 30-minute break should be doable. Even better if you take a walk, read a book, or work on a calming hobby.
In general, you should avoid social media and the internet, but there are some good apps, like Breathe2Relax, that will put you in a temporary downtime mode.
Remember, a business without great ideas, whether for the workplace, marketing, or product development, is a business that is not likely to stand out from the pack.
How do you keep the ideas flowing with your business? Share your tips in the comments!
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