Have you ever thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Certainly that next million dollar idea is just out of reach. Today I am offering an overview of what are called “ideation” techniques for entrepreneurs. Ideation is the creation of ideas. This is how you, also, can come up with your next big idea!
So where do ideas come from? There is no one-size fits-all approach to creating ideas. Almost no ideas are from that “taking a shower moment” when someone shouts “Eureka!” Leave it to me to bring reality into this situation and provide you with process options for ideation so that more good ideas can be created from the start. There are many ideation techniques, starting with the 16+ options that are listed below. Pick the technique that feels the best for your situation and try it.
- Analogies – Drawing comparisons to replicate an idea from one context to another.
- Bodystorming – Individuals act out the problem and generate ideas from a design thinking process by developing empathy for the target customer.
- Brainstorming – Small groups of individuals produce a large quantity of ideas within a specific timeframe. No idea is ridiculed or dismissed, and ideas are built upon each other during the session. One variation to brainstorming is brainwriting, when ideas are written down before discussed. This ensures that everyone is heard (including you, introverts). Another variation is brainwalking, when participants walk around the room and add to other written ideas.
- Braindumping – Like brainstorming, but performed individually.
- Challenging Assumptions – Overturn established beliefs about problems to reveal new ideas.
- Cheatstorming – Use previously generated ideas as a starting point and build upon them.
- Crowdstorming – Ask for ideas about solving a problem from a group of potential target customers (e.g., through social media).
- Intersection of technology and markets – Generate ideas that could leverage the Internet and other technologies to drive product and service development. Many scalable businesses are in this area.
- Mindmapping – A graphical technique that uses both sides of the brain to assess ideas and solutions to problems, primarily through visual representation.
- Points of pain – Many ideas arise from the need to solve a problem that affects individuals, a community, or society as a whole. A pain point worth solving as an entrepreneur is one that requires a new product or service and that a customer will purchase. Overall, this should be the basis of a startup but can also be used as a starting point for ideation.
- SCAMPER – Evaluate a problem by posing seven questions (“Substitute”, “Combine”, “Adapt”, “Modify”, “Put to another use”, “Eliminate”, “Reverse”) to find new solutions.
- Serendipity – Sometimes good ideas just happen. Stay prepared and open to ideas.
- Sketching/Sketchstorming – Use rough sketches or diagrams to express ideas and solutions to problems and to explore the design of a new product or service.
- Storyboarding – Create a visual story showing the problem being solved with a new product or service to illustrate potential customer journeys.
- Systematic research – Stay attuned to your area of expertise and continually read, research, and network to identify opportunities.
- TRIZ – As compared to the intuitive brainstorming process, TRIZ is a systematic approach that is based on logic, data, and research. TRIZ is the Russian acronym for the "Theory of Inventive Problem Solving."
Entrepreneurs are uniquely qualified to capture and follow through with ideas. This ability to follow through with and implement an idea, which separates ideation from innovation, is a trait of successful entrepreneurs.
I am in awe of our region’s entrepreneurs and their innovative products. They are solving big problems, creating jobs, and scaling. They are so innovative and advanced that Wilmington’s entrepreneurial ecosystem recently ranked #1 in the nation
for cities under 300,000. Let’s keep it going. Find inspiring moments in your personal and business life – and then ideate and innovate! UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE)
is here to help.
Heather McWhorter empowers individuals and communities to prosper through entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainability. She is the Director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which nurtures emerging startups and accelerates the entrepreneurial ecosystem in southeastern North Carolina as a vibrant hub of innovation and a central facility that offers educational events, UNCW connections, and a state-of-the-art incubator space. For more information about CIE, please visit uncw.edu/cie/.