4 months ago (Fri, Jan 20, 2023 at 03:51 PM)

In general, entrepreneurs identify more ideas than opportunities because many ideas are typically generated to find the best way to capitalize on an opportunity. Several techniques can be used to stimulate and facilitate the generation of new ideas for products, services, and businesses. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1. Brainstorming

A common way to generate new business ideas is through brainstorming. In general, brainstorming is simply the process of generating several ideas about a specific topic. The approaches range from a person sitting down with a yellow legal pad and jotting down interesting business ideas to formal “brainstorming sessions” led by moderators that involve a group of people.

In a formal brainstorming session, the leader of the group asks the participants to share their ideas. One person shares an idea, another person reacts to it, another person reacts to the reaction, and so on. A flip chart or an electronic whiteboard is typically used to record all the ideas. A productive session is freewheeling and lively. The session is not used for analysis or decision-making—the ideas generated during a brainstorming session need to be filtered and analyzed, but this is done later. We show the four strict rules for conducting a formal brainstorming session. As you’ll see, the number one rule for a brainstorming session is that no criticism is allowed, including chuckles, raised eyebrows, or facial expressions that express skepticism or doubt. Criticism stymies creativity and inhibits the free flow of ideas.


Rule Explanation

• No criticism is allowed, including chuckles, raised eyebrows, or facial expressions that express skepticism or doubt.
Criticism stymies creativity and inhibits the free flow of ideas.

• Freewheeling, which is the carefree expression of ideas free from rules or restraints, is encouraged; the more ideas,
the better. Even crazy or outlandish ideas may lead to a good idea or a solution to a problem.

• The session moves quickly, and nothing is permitted to slow down its pace. For example, it is more important to
capture the essence of an idea than to take the time to write it down neatly.

• Leapfrogging is encouraged. This means using one idea as a means of jumping forward quickly to other ideas.

2. Painstorming

Painstorming is a creative problem-solving technique that focuses on identifying and understanding the pain points of customers or users or people. It is a more structured and focused form of brainstorming that helps teams to generate more innovative and effective solutions.

The painstorming process typically involves four steps:

1. Define the problem. The first step is to clearly define the problem that you are trying to solve. This involves identifying the customer or user, understanding their needs, and identifying the specific pain points that they are experiencing.

2. Gather data. Once you have defined the problem, you need to gather data about the pain points that you have identified. This data can come from a variety of sources, such as customer surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

3. Analyze the data. Once you have gathered data, you need to analyze it to identify the root causes of the pain points. This analysis will help you to understand why the pain points are occurring and what can be done to address them.

4. Generate solutions. Once you have analyzed the data, you can begin to generate solutions to the pain points. This is where creativity comes in. The goal is to come up with innovative and effective solutions that will address the root causes of the pain points.

Painstorming can be a valuable tool for teams that are looking to improve their products or services. By focusing on the pain points of customers or users, teams can develop solutions that are more likely to be successful.

Here are some tips for conducting a successful painstorming session:

Start with a clear goal. What do you hope to achieve by conducting a painstorming session? Having a clear goal will help to keep the discussion focused and productive.

Involve the right people. The people who participate in the painstorming session should be representative of the customer or user base. This will help to ensure that the pain points that are identified are relevant to the people who will be using the solution.

Create a safe and supportive environment. People are more likely to be open and honest about their pain points if they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Create a safe and supportive environment where people feel free to speak their minds.

Encourage creativity. The goal of painstorming is to generate innovative and effective solutions. Encourage participants to think outside the box and come up with new and different ideas.

Be prepared to iterate. The first round of painstorming may not produce the perfect solution. Be prepared to iterate on the ideas that are generated and continue to refine them until you have a solution that is both effective and feasible.

3. Focus Groups

A focus group is a gathering of 5 to 10 people who are selected because of their relationship to the issue being discussed. Although focus groups are used for a variety of purposes, they can be used to help generate new business ideas.

Focus groups typically involve a group of people who are familiar with a topic, are brought together to respond to questions, and shed light on an issue through the give-and-take nature of a group discussion. Focus groups usually work best as a follow-up to brainstorming, when the general idea for a business has been formulated, such as casual electronic games for adults, but further refinement of the idea is needed. Usually, focus groups are conducted by trained moderators. The moderator’s primary goals are to keep the group “focused” and to generate lively discussion. Much of the effectiveness of a focus group session depends on the moderator’s ability to ask questions and keep the discussion on track. For example, a retail establishment in which coffee is sold, such as Starbucks, might conduct a focus group consisting of 7 to 10 frequent customers and ask the group, “What is it that you don’t like about our coffee shop?” A customer may say, “You sell 1-pound bags of your specialty ground coffees for people to brew at home. That’s okay, but I often run out of coffee in just a few days. Sometimes it’s a week before I get back to the shop to buy another bag. If you sold 3-pound or 5-pound bags, I’d actually use more coffee because I wouldn’t run out so often. I guess I could buy two or three 1-pound bags at the same time, but that gets a little pricey. I’d buy a 3- or 5-pound bag, however, if you’d discount your price a little for larger quantities.” The moderator may then ask the group, “How many people here would buy 3-pound or 5-pound bags of our coffee if they were available?” If five hands shoot up, the coffee shop may have just uncovered an idea for a new product line.

4. Library and Internet Research

A third approach to generate new business ideas is to conduct library and Internet research. A natural tendency is to think that an idea should be chosen, and the process of researching the idea should then begin. This approach is too linear. Often, the best ideas emerge when the general notion of an idea, like creating casual electronic games for adults, is merged with extensive library and Internet research, which might provide insights into the best type of casual games to create.

Libraries are often an underutilized source of information for generating business ideas. The best approach to utilizing a library is to discuss your general area of interest with a reference librarian, who can point out useful resources, such as industry-specific magazines, trade journals, and industry reports. Simply browsing through several issues of a trade journal on a topic can spark new ideas. Very powerful search engines and databases are also available through universities and large public libraries, which would cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to access on your own. An example is IBIS World (, a company that publishes market research on all major industries and subcategories within industries. IBIS World published a 30-page report on the solar power industry, for example, in March 2011, which includes key statistics (about industry growth and profitability), a complete industry analysis, and an outlook for the future. Spending time reading this report could spark new ideas for solar-powered devices or help affirm an existing idea.

Internet research is also important. If you are starting from scratch, simply typing “new business ideas” into Google or Yahoo! will produce links to newspaper and magazine articles about the “hottest” and “latest” new business ideas. Although these types of articles are general in nature, they represent a starting point if you’re trying to generate new business ideas from scratch. If you have a specific idea in mind, a useful technique is to set up a Google or Yahoo! “e-mail alert” using keywords that pertain to your topic of interest. Google and Yahoo! alerts are e-mail updates of the latest Google or Yahoo! results including press releases, news articles, and blog posts based on your topic. This technique, which is available for free, will feed you a daily stream of news articles and blog postings about specific topics. Another approach is to follow business leaders and experts in the industries you’re interested in on Twitter. The best way to locate people on Twitter you might be interested in following is by typing into the search bar labeled “Who to Follow” relevant keywords preceded by the “#” sign. For example, if you’re interested in solar power, type “#solarpower” into the search bar. All the results will be people or companies who tweet about solar power topics.

5. Other Techniques

Firms use a variety of other techniques to generate ideas. Some companies set up customer advisory boards that meet regularly to discuss needs, wants, and problems that may lead to new ideas. Other companies conduct varying forms of anthropological research, such as day-in-the-life research. Intuit, the maker of Quicken, Quickbooks, and TurboTax, practices day-in-the-life research. The company routinely sends teams of testers to the homes and businesses of its users to see how its products are working and to seek insights for new product ideas. 

Reference: Entrepreneurship, Successfully Launching New Ventures   


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