A Breakthrough Business Idea In 21 Days? How to Improve the Odds

small business idea

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2.   New/Provocative Stimuli are Critical

One of the keys to a successful corporate ideation session is to have the right stimuli that will trigger new connections. I quickly realized that if I were going to succeed generating 21 big ideas daily,

I would need to dramatically expand my own creative stimuli: specifically, what I was reading. So, to discover creative thinking nuggets in the world of fashion, I read Seventeen Magazine and Vogue. To find exciting new technologies, I read Popular Science, and New Scientist.

To inspire new service ideas, I read everything from AARP magazine to The New York Times, Cassandra Daily (on-line trend newsletter) to the Futurist.  

3.   Reading with a Entrepreneurial Mindset

Besides reading more broadly, I also realized that HOW I read needed to change dramatically.

No more reading like a passive sponge, simply absorbing provocative, entertaining or fun information. Rather, I consciously and consistently set my mind to proactively identifying creative building blocks that could inspire a new product or service concept.

A good example of this creative shift was my reading of an article in the NY Times entitled, “For Medical Tourists, Simple Math,” on the trend for US patients to travel abroad for low-cost surgical procedures. Reading this article with an active, entrepreneurial mindset, I created I-MONE (International - Medical Option Network): a referral service from US Hospitals that would form alliances with, vet, arrange travel for – and take a cut of – medical operations for US patients in overseas hospitals.

4.   The First Idea is Only a Starting Point  

Finally, I confirmed what I knew from facilitating ideation sessions for corporate America: the initial idea is frequently only a starting point in the creative thinking process. To create a big idea, you have to evolve and develop the idea by adding increased specificity, uniqueness, and/or consumer benefits.

A good example of evolving a preliminary idea into a bigger one:

From my reading in technology, I discovered that an Israeli inventor had invented a $12 water-resistant bicycle constructed almost entirely of recycled cardboard. I set a goal of creating 20 products that could use this new cardboard technology: everything from wheelbarrows to sand sculpture molds, flip flops to baby strollers.

Fine, but these were only preliminary ideas.

Pushing to develop the stroller idea, for instance, led to the concept of a “Fun Stroller”: a low cost, baby stroller that could be used as a creative activity center, complete with stickers, crayons and paints that would enable kids to create their own, unique moving works of art.

So, what was most important learning from my 21-day “big idea” experiment? A quote I created for Bob’s next crop of entrepreneurial students at Moscow’s School of Management “Startup Academy,” “Richard Dyson is the only person I know who can create new ideas in a vacuum.” I’m pretty sure Bob would agree.

Bryan Mattimore co-authored this article.

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About the author

Bob Dorf

Bob Dorf is among the world’s leading Lean Startup and Customer Development experts, who trains and coaches startups throughout the world, with a particular focus on Latin America.  Bob co-authored the Startup Owner’s Manual, a global bestseller, with startup legend Steve Blank. Now in 18 languages, the Manual details every step in transforming an idea into a repeatable, scalable, profitable business. Bob focuses particularly on training programs for the startup educators, coaches, and investors, and has done so repeatedly in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and many more. Hes also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Columbia Business School. Earlier, Bob founded seven startups--“two homeruns, two base hits, and three tax losses.” His 30+ angel investments delivered 7 IPO’s and six disasters. Learn more at www.bobdorf.nyc or contact bob via bobdorf@gmail.com

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