One of the buzzwords I often hear in start-up communities is ideation. So what does it mean?
Ideation comes from the words “idea” and “creation”. It’s the process of not just creating but also evaluating ideas so you can extract the most viable concepts. The purpose of ideation is to help entrepreneurs develop new business concepts, products and strategies.
Here’s step-by-step guide on how you can come up with winning ideas.
Step 1: Brainstorm
The initial part of the ideation process is brainstorming, or the process of collecting ideas in a group. During brainstorming, every idea counts and should be heard. The goal is to gather as many ideas as possible without criticism and just let creative juices flow.
I was recently involved in a directed brainstorming session where we were asked to come up with 25 ideas to a business problem in five minutes. Using a stopwatch, this meant we had to come up with a solution every 10 seconds or so, leaving little time to criticise each idea. After the five minutes were up we actually generated 31 ideas, beating the target!
Step 2: Evaluation
After you have gathered ideas, the next step is to evaluate them one by one. For each idea you generate, I recommend asking these questions:
- Are you passionate about the idea?
- Can you see yourself working on it in the next decade or so?
- Is the idea simple and easy to explain?
- Does it have a revenue stream?
- Is the idea unique or better than what is out there?
- If the answer is no, then it’s best to kill that idea. Why? Starting a new business is harder and takes longer than you think.
A few years ago, I was keen on exploring a home meal replacement business. With more people living in apartments and pressed for time, it seemed like a logical growing market. My business partner and I gathered lots of statistics, visited factories and conducted a bunch of market research. In the end we didn’t proceed because we couldn’t see ourselves doing this for the next decade or so.
Repeat the evaluation process for all your ideas.
Step 3: Research
The next step is to research the remaining ideas. Conduct your own informal market research and constantly listen to the sounds of the marketplace. Find out who has succeeded in a similar field and who has failed. Identify your target market, talk to them about your concept and discern if there’s a real need for your idea.
The goal of research is to help you make informed decisions and reduce your risk of failure. Once you have the information that you need, trim down your ideas list and retain only those that have potential to succeed.
Step 4: Discuss
Discuss the remaining ideas to anyone and everyone who would care to listen. Conduct surveys to hundreds of potential customers (not just your mother!), interview experienced entrepreneurs, advertise your idea in social networks, create a prototype and see how the market responds. Retain the most promising idea.
Step 5: Kill the idea
After you have identified your best idea, then it’s time to kill it. Be the devil’s advocate. Find holes in your idea and question its validity.
The goal of this exercise is to find out if the idea will stand test of time and scrutiny. If it survives, then you have an idea with a better chance of succeeding. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to move on and start the ideation process anew.