Who is this for? The Growers, The Ambitious, The Brave
What is it About? How to Develop Ideas
Reading Time 5 Minutes

How to develop ideas

Circles

 Here’s one for all those small businesses who don’t have time to read the endless business books out there…

Pre-thoughts

1)

Everyday another one dies.

Often several.

Some of them are given less than a chance to draw breath, before being dispatched to the trash can of thoughts best forgotten.

Some days it’s a massacre.

They are killed by a lack of time, by the distraction of “priorities” and by disbelief, but worst of all they are murdered by apathy.

Ideas are the victims here, and their only crime is not being fully formed when first announced – it isn’t their fault you or your team don’t know they’re not meant to be.

2)

For every great innovation, or inventor given the plaudits for invention, there is always another claimant who may have reached out for an idea first…

Thomas Edison – The Incandescent Light BulbSee also Joseph Swan who definitely beat him to the patent office or Hiram Maxim who introduced carbon filaments.

“I start where the last man left off” 

 Thomas Edison

The Wright Brothers – Heavier than air flight. Or was it Gustave Whitehead or Clement Adler or Karl Jatho or Yorkshireman Sir George Cayley?

“If we worked on the assumption that what is accepted as true really is true, then there would be little hope for advance.”

Orville Wright

And didn’t that man from the tiny town of Vinci have both ideas first? Or was he feeding from even more ancient ideas?

There’s a reason for this tenuous thread of thought having two strings:

Firstly – no successful idea is that of one person. Secondly – the plaudits aren’t necessarily gained by the first in the field – but by those who are best at gaining publicity.

Both are worth bearing in mind when building or growing a business.

Let’s start with nurturing an idea:

An idea shouldn’t be expressed as a light bulb emoji or a big fluffy cloud – you can try developing it by one of the multitude of mind mapping apps available, or you can sit around a fire with trusted colleagues, bouncing thoughts and tall tales off each other till the wee small hours or the dregs turn sour – but what you can’t do is do it alone.

Why?

Well, bringing a fully formed idea to the table and saying to employees, partners and stake holders “hey, this is my big idea that we ARE going to do – get on board” is a great way to stake your claim to the plaudits (if it’s successful), but it is never going to be as good as it could be if you not only recognise everyone’s input, but semi formalise how that input is developed – or nurtured.

Around about here there is a whole couple of chapters I could insert on input levels, cognoscenti, focal points and pointy sticks, watch this space for more.

An idea is best expressed, as mentioned – not as an emoji or a cloud, or come to that a thought bubble – but as a Circle.

It is a Circle because whatever stage it is at, it is already complete in its self.

It is a Circle because, just like the old carnival attraction The Wall of Death, it needs momentum to make real.

Warning: Time to engage your imagination for a paragraph or two…

The “idea”, which you should now be seeing in your mind’s eye as a circle, is usually black.

It isn’t filled in, it isn’t a ball or a disc, it’s a Circle.

Specifically, it is probably no bigger than the end of your little finger, the black outline is about 2.25pt (seen at 100% on your computer if you want to check it out) and the inner “Breeding Pool” of the circle is white – or empty – to start out with, depending on your personal perception.

Ok, to place us on the same page, it looks like this:

That’s roughly the size of the end of my pinky, if seen at 150% – as I can’t be arsed to fetch my glasses from downstairs – yours may be different, don’t get hung up about it, right now size isn’t an issue – having said that, every “new” idea looks like this whether you think its small, large, a BIG IDEA or a GRRREAT idea – they all start out looking like this.

You can’t make it bigger alone – sure, you can make it breathe, slightly bigger, slightly smaller, slightly bigger, slightly smaller, breathe in, breathe out and so on… If you have enough self-awareness you’ll notice that its movement changes with your mood – but you can’t make it permanently bigger.

Why is it black?

Because

  1. a) It will find its own colour later and
  2. b) because this is my idea and I said so.

The way you do make it bigger is by pouring other people’s thoughts into the middle, if those thoughts are worthwhile (something you will never be able to fully quantify), they will bounce off each other, breed and create new ones.

Those offspring of the first few thoughts may rebel against the older ones or just improve on them, or even replace them, and suddenly you, the person who drew the circle, will be adding thoughts of your own and watching the circle stretch and expand to accommodate the growing idea!

Not pragmatic enough for you?

Semi-formalising:

Several points to discuss here but as this is an article for the new Blue Strawberry Elephant website (coming soon folks!) or maybe Linkedin I’m compressing somewhat.

How many ideas have you had that got no further?

How many ideas have been brought to you that you thought too risky, or expensive or ridiculous?

How many times has a really big bold idea been brought to you that you got really excited about only to allow yourself to be talked out of it?

When you bring an idea to the table you should be able to explain where you think it might benefit the business, but possibly not much more, the discussion that follows between you and your partners, co-directors or trusted employees could whirl out of control achieving nothing except the inevitable “but we have paying work to do…”

Explain, ask for initial thoughts (to drip into your circle) and then keep the Circle solid by getting a development plan.

Try this: –

Properly define the Circle:

What is the back of a beer mat basis?

Why would you want to take it further?

If it worked what would be the non-financial benefits?

Don’t discuss it before you start:

Start with a fairly solid proposal – expecting it to change.

Discuss it with your team.

Ask for initial ideas but don’t decide anything.

Delegate research:

What resources do you have?

What resources would you need?

What can be done in house*
?

What do you need to contract in?

Give everyone involved in the discussion something to find out before a second meeting (scheduled at the first).

 

Bring it back to the table:

If that first list is worked through in detail, spreading the weight beyond one person – the time it takes for each is minimal and a second meeting can really start to move things forward quickly.

This is only the start – it isn’t an exhaustive list, but it gives a taste of semi-formalising a process to make things move more quickly and not be hidden under a pile of other priorities.

Be “First” Be Fast:

Once you have your Circle bulging with thoughts you need to get it out there as quickly as possible.

You may have discovered, if you didn’t know at the start, you already have competition – if not directly the same then at least alternatives that could easily block your sales.

This is where the brand, the publicity and the marketing thing comes into its own – just because you may not be the first you should always act as though you are, if it is obvious that you aren’t the first you should always be seen as better…

…and that my friend is where the character of you and your business show their true colours.

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves”

Thomas Edison

Tips:

1.

*Try to remember that in business terms the Tech Giants haven’t dumbed things down to make your life easier, they’ve done that to sell you more product and tie you in to their services.

In turn this has given a lot of people the feeling of being enabled – able to do things and produce things that they have been convinced are as good as can be offered by experienced professionals – think very carefully before being seduced by cost savings or thinking this is an avenue to empowering your team. Any cost savings are usually swallowed up by the additional time it takes, profitability is effected by people being taken away from what they are really good at and trained for, and sales are lost to competitors by the often almost subliminal chipping away of your brand in your market place.

2.

As a creative business with paid employees we are protected by clauses in employment contracts that say anything created is owned by the company, there’s implied and formal NDAs and confidentiality. Depending on what type of business you are, you may not have this covered – so best to check and build in formal protection before spilling the beans to the team.

3.

Properly constructed Non Disclosure Agreements are not only a comfort but an essential tool when involving those not under direct employment contracts.

 

NOTE: Versions of this process are used by every large tech and brand led company – they all have their own versions – some start with a problem that needs solving and through a regimented creative process, testing, creating and retesting develop the solution – the solution is the idea.

Ad agencies, have in the past, thrown products into a shark pool where creative teams of copywriters and art directors compete for who comes up with the most effective presentation.

Mass-market companies invent problems no one knew they had until a solution was defined and developed to deal with them…

…but we mainly work with SMEs and SMEs don’t usually have the time, resources or expertise to bring new ideas to market.

One of the things Blue Strawberry Elephant can help you with is organising, filling out and take your Circles to market.

Give us a call to find out more 0114 255 9993

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