If you ask entrepreneurs to trace their businesses back to the starting point, you will hear them say something along the lines of, “One day I had this idea….”. Then you will learn that they took this idea seriously, integrated it into their idea generation process, and developed a plan around it.
Sounds simple, right? But, idea generation is a tricky process. It is not always as easy as having an aha moment and recording your idea in a notebook.
In this article, we’re going to learn more about the idea generation process and introduce some of the apps that are useful when you want to keep your business thriving with new ideas.
What Is Idea Generation?
As the name suggests, idea generation is the process of shaping new ideas. Using idea generation, or ideation, business owners, entrepreneurs, or even employees develop innovative ideas into plans they can implement in their businesses.
Idea Generation Techniques
Creative thinking can be a challenging task. But professionals and academics have developed techniques to help you channel your scattered thoughts into useful ideas. Let’s take a look at five useful idea generation techniques:
Brainstorming is a technique that helps individuals and groups generate new ideas or think of solutions to a certain problem. In brainstorming, you suggest as many ideas as possible, even if they are not entirely related to your intended goal. You can learn more about brainstorming here.
Six Thinking Hats
This is a colourful approach to creative thinking which was first introduced by Edward de Bono. The six thinking hats method promotes creative thinking. It enhances your idea generation process by focusing on creative free thinking.
To generate ideas using this technique, you need to imagine 6 hats in different colours, each representing a certain perspective about your goal or problem:
White hat: this hat represents rational thinking. At this stage, you want to state facts and information.
Yellow hat: this is the part where you only look at the bright side. Try thinking positively and taking the benefits of your idea into consideration.
Black hat: this is the opposite of the yellow hat. You should be realistic and try to imagine what could go wrong and what’s the worst possible outcome.
Red hat: this hat is about emotions. At this stage, try to listen to your gut feelings to see if it is the right choice.
Blue hat: with the blue hat, you try to control the idea generation process. For example, if you’re experiencing a mental block, try to step in and offer a change in perspective to remove the obstacle and look at the bigger picture.
Green hat: this hat represents creativity. Don’t try to censor your ideas, so that you can generate as many of them as possible.
Blue-sky thinking is a way of limitless thinking. With this technique, you don’t need to stick to the facts or remain realistic. Just go where your imagination takes you. You might come up with a blue-sky idea that does not match your budget, but that idea leads to another idea, and so on. Eventually, you can have an innovative, practical idea. If you use this technique, try not to limit yourself and look at the situation with fresh eyes.
This technique was first used by Phil Johnson in his book Improv. It is designed to go around the obstacles that present themselves in an idea generation session. People often become insecure about their ideas and wonder if they would fail. The “Yes, and…” technique helps the situation by forcing you to say yes to any idea, even if you feel negative about it, or if it’s the most unlikely option. This allows you to build up another idea based on that answer.
This is a fun ideation technique that involves sketching but don’t worry, it is not exclusively for designers. It is most effective if you are generating ideas in a group. You start by distributing A4 papers among your team members. Each page is divided into 8 sections. Then, each person has 5 minutes to do a rough sketch of an idea in each section. When doing this technique, try to fill as many as 6 sections. The last step is to put all the papers on a wall and stick stickers next to two of your favourite ideas on each page. This way, you have at least 2 great ideas after your ideation session is over.
Useful Apps for Idea Generation
In this part, we’ll have a look at 8 useful applications/websites which help entrepreneurs and business owners, as well as their employees, to generate, collect, and share ideas:
Ideanote is designed to help businesses grow by collecting and sharing ideas. Users claim that it is an excellent idea generation platform. There are decision-making tools within the app that make it easy to apply your ideas to your business. You can also gather recommendations from your clients
This is an online mind-mapping app. Using their free plan, you can develop up to three mind maps and share them with others. The upside is that you don’t have to download anything and you can use their website from almost any device.
This app is only available on Mac and iOS devices. Through Mindnode, you can brainstorm ideas and create outlines. On top of that, the app has a sleek design and a user-friendly interface.
One of Mindnode’s interesting features is that you can create tasks within the app that can be added to the tasks on your calendar, this way you can cross off the tasks on the app and on your calendar as you get them done.
With Coda you can easily grow your ideas on a blank doc, share them with your teammates and receive their feedback through the interactive reaction buttons. Coda enables you to create indefinite depth, meaning you can create as many docs as you want to expand your idea. Additionally, you can combine docs and spreadsheets.
Brightidea is a web-based whiteboard that allows you to brainstorm your ideas and collaborate in real time with your team members.
Lucidchart is a diagramming application. You can create flowcharts from scratch or choose from a variety of templates. What’s more, Lucidchart is cloud-based and you can collaborate in real-time with your team. They also have a blog on their website, with helpful entries about making the most of the app and management tips.
This is a collaborative online whiteboard, similar to Brightidea. With Mural, you and your team have the chance to have idea generation sessions regardless of your location. You can also add pictures and GIFs to communicate your message more clearly and with a pinch of humour. And if you prefer some privacy, you can create breakout rooms.
As you might expect, Planbox is a place to store and access your ideas. It allows you to automate your idea generation process as well as save your ideas from being lost in emails and spreadsheets. You can also slice and dice your data using the analytical engine. According to their customers, their support team is highly responsive, too.
The first step to starting a business is generating ideas. However, the process of thinking creatively and finding the best idea can be difficult. The five techniques you were introduced to in the first part of this article, should make it easier for you.
You should also be able to have more organised ideation sessions when you use the eight websites/applications that were introduced in the second part.
By using the tips and techniques from this article, you can let your imagination run wild, generate ideas, and expand your business as far as you want.