99 IDEAS ON GENERATING MORE, BETTER AND BIGGER IDEAS
By Stephen Dupont, APR
Are you working on a major new business opportunity, but are struggling to come up with original ideas that will blow the competition out of the water?
Do you feel like you and your team are on a hamster wheel trying to develop new ideas for your company?
Is your boss pressuring you to come up with brilliant, breakthrough ideas as you plan for next year’s new product launch?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then what you need are more ideas!
That, of course, is the challenge.
How do you break out of your rut and come up with something to help the organization or the brand that you represent stand apart?
Not just more ideas, but better ideas. And bigger ideas.
Become an Idea Magnet
Ironically, the key to getting to better ideas is…. producing more ideas!
The more ideas you produce, the greater the chance that one or a few of them will help you meet your goal. Even bad ideas count, because ideas that, at first, might seem lame can lead to big ideas — even brilliant ideas.
But the question remains: How do you produce more ideas?
Based on my experience in marketing and public relations, I believe that the path to generating more ideas involves a variety of techniques.
When you start to produce ideas on a regular basis – strengthening your mind to create ideas under pressure or to spot ideas sitting right in front of you — you become an idea magnet. Ideas will gravitate to you and you will be in the envious position of having to learn how to sort all of those ideas – the truly brilliant from the truly bad and everything in between.
Ultimately, idea generation is a state of mind. To generate more and better ideas, you need to cultivate a curious mind. You need to feed your mind with new experiences, meetings with new people and trusted friends, with more books, and travel to both new places and familiar territory.
Sometimes when I go shopping with my wife, I’ll see a product that I’ve never tried and I’ll buy it. Just to sample it. My wife gives me a certain bit of latitude with these mini-experiments. Some of my new finds have been incredible, and others have been flat-out busts. But here’s something that I’ve observed: it always seems that when I’m open to trying something new, somehow, someway, that experience seems to come back to me in a relevant moment through my work.
By the way…I do not recommend garlic-flavored ice cream. But orange-mint is really good!
Do Your Homework
“If you don’t know where you are going any road can take you there.” – Lewis Carroll, author, Alice in Wonderland
Part of the process to get to more relevant ideas is doing your homework before you start generating ideas.
Begin with the end in mind. And don’t think about the entire universe. Just focus on what you need to accomplish. Be specific.
Broad goal: “We need more sales.”
Specific goal: “We need 20 percent more sales of Widget X through our ecommerce platform in the first quarter.”
From there, ask more questions to obtain the context you need to develop more relevant ideas. For example:
How are the products currently being sold?
How is the target audience finding our product?
Do they research online?
Are they buying our product from Amazon versus are local retailer?
What are they using our product for?
Is anyone using our product differently? Any new applications?
What’s the competition doing?
From here, gather information, statistics, and insights so you can produce more ideas that are more relevant to your intended audience. For instance, you could gather additional insights by interviewing customers about their experience with your brand, or you could go shop the competition.
Creating a Safe Place for Idea Generation
Beyond these two foundational stages of the ideation process, probably the most important factor to successfully generating ideas lies in the culture of your workplace. It boils down to this:
Do you (and those around you) feel safe in generating ideas?
Let me put it another way: Do you work in an environment where the very air feels like it’s conducive to new ideas? In other words, you can feel the energy in the atmosphere – the ideas are there, just waiting to be plucked like a tree full of apples?
If you have someone, or a small group of people, on your team or in your department that do not value the ideas of others, or worse, bully or demean the ideas of your team members, I guarantee you will leave good ideas on the table.
In some organizations, specific departments are deemed to be “creative” and others are not. For example, in the typical giant advertising firm, the art directors and copywriters are allowed to be creative, whereas the account people, the researchers and the media buyers are not. Or, in a big corporation, the marketing and creative departments are supposed to own creativity where the legal, human resources, and finance departments are supposed to stick to what they know best.
The truth is we are all creative – each in our special way. In working with some incredible attorneys, I have witnessed some brilliant legal creativity. The same with the human resources and operations people I’ve known. The point is, don’t limit creativity to a specific department or group of people (such as engineering), it’s incumbent on business leaders to create an environment where all ideas flourish.
Three additional thoughts:
One — Part of the problem also could be in how you ask for ideas. If you have people who are more introverted or do not like the group setting of a brainstorm meeting, you need to find other ways they can express their ideas.
Two — What you do with the ideas matters as well. If you as the team leader tend to always favor the ideas of one or two persons on your team, those who have participated in the ideation process will notice, and will shut down in future efforts. They might submit some ideas, but they won’t give you their most creative thinking.
Three –Look closely at the physical space of your workplace. There’s a reason that co-working spaces are thriving across the country. These spaces, often frequented by people who are starting businesses or who want to work as individual consultants, offer opportunities for collaboration. People literally bumping into each other and sharing ideas. Could your workspace be reconfigured to offer a balance between the privacy that workers desire and the collaborative space that fosters idea generation?
99 Ideas to Generate More Ideas
So, 99 ideas is a lot of ideas. My suggestion: don’t try to eat this elephant all at once. Start small. Try a few of these initially. See what works, and what feels right. Observe which techniques produce not only more ideas, but the more relevant ideas – based on the culture of your organization. More importantly, try to use some of these techniques every day. Generating a few ideas every day adds up over time to a lot of ideas — so many ideas that you may not know what to do with them all.
It starts with you
To generate new ideas, start with exercising your own idea muscle with these suggestions:
1) Read more! Read more books and magazine articles to gather ideas and insights. Look for publications that you may not have read before. Read books by inspirational authors who are well known for their creativity. Of course, you can read well-known business authors such as Tom Peters or Seth Godin. But don’t stop there! There are probably just as many ideas to be gained from perusing The Economist to reading the sci-fi adventure Ready Player One.
2) Daily journal. Business guru and author James Altucher recommends keeping a daily journal and committing yourself to writing down at least 10 ideas every day to start your workday. In 30 days, you’ll have 300 ideas.
3) Ideas that won’t go away. If you notice that an idea just keeps coming up again and again, go find someone and talk through it. An idea that won’t go away is an idea that’s waiting for you to act on it. This is the central idea of author Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. An idea ignored will eventually find someone else to make it happen. And that’s when you’ll see it and say to yourself, “Hmmm, I thought of that idea, if only I had….”
4) Sleep on it. Before you go to bed, write down the problem or opportunity about which you’re trying to develop ideas on a piece of paper. Make sure to have a pen and paper right by your bedside so when you wake up, you can quickly write all of the ideas that you just dreamed about.
5) Magic Genie! Imagine that you and your work colleagues have found a magic lamp. A genie appears and grants you three wishes for your business or brand. What do you wish for?
6) What if? Make a list of “What if” statements relating to your challenge or opportunity. For example, “What if we changed how we delivered this product?” or “What if we sold our product through Amazon.com?” or “What if I moved (or we moved our entire company) to a different part of the country?”
7) Bathrooms and showers. Some people come up with their best ideas in the bathroom as they’re preparing for the day. If that’s you, have a piece of paper and pen ready to collect ideas.
8) Law of attraction. Allow the law of attraction to work for you. Write down on a piece of paper the type of ideas you need for your challenge or opportunity and how soon you need those ideas. Put the paper up on a wall or surface where you can see that goal. Be open to any ideas that come to you. Meditate daily – for at least five minutes – about what you need. Post those ideas on post-it notes near your request.
9) Learn a new skill. Learn how to do a website, how to blog, how to do search engine optimization (SEO), how to do a sales call, how to code – one new skill that gives you new insight about how you or your organization could be doing things differently and better.
10) The “bugging you” list. Make a list of things that completely bug the heck out of you based on your experience with your own organization or how your client delivers the customer experience (including the marketing and selling of a product or service). What is in your power to fix?
11) Tap your passions. Do you love making jewelry? How about wilderness hiking? Golfing? Craft brews? Look closely at hobbies or interests for which you are truly passionate for ideas that could be transferred to your work challenge or opportunity.
12) Mistakes, blunders and failures. Make a list of your biggest mistakes and blunders. Take a close look at this list. Do you see any patterns? What could you have done to prevent these mistakes? What could you do now, on the projects you’re working on, to prevent similar mistakes? What lessons have you learned from your failures?
13) Attend a MeetUp or a Start-Up Grind meeting in your area to learn from other people who are interested in the same topic (such as digital marketing) or who are interested in learning the lessons of what to do and what not to do when starting up a business.
14) Write a blog post. Write an article about a topic for your personal blog or company blog. Interview influential people for your article – thought leaders in your company, your clients or people in your industry. Post your article on LinkedIn, Medium or even your Facebook page.
15) Tickle file. Create a tickle file: designate a space in your file cabinet at work to collect ideas – articles, ideas you’ve seen on the Internet, ideas you’ve written down – whatever you find creative! Or, create an online file on your laptop – to keep articles, ebooks, white papers, famous quotes, etc., which you can easily access.
Shake things up
Another route to creativity involves breaking up your routine to understand what other assets you have available for idea generation. For example:
16) Hit the streets. Look for ideas that are happening on the streets – new foods, music, and art. For example, I observed the experience of my niece who recently visited us. Instead of taking a flight or a bus, she got a ride from a fellow student for a fraction of the price through a ridesharing Facebook page set up by students at her college.
17) Magazine stand. Hang out at a bookstore with a really great magazine stand. Peruse the covers. Notice the headlines. What trends do you see? Buy a handful of magazines that you’ve never read before in your life.
18) Peace and quiet. Find some peace and quiet. Go for a long walk in the woods. Consider taking a silent retreat.
19) Creativity sources. Go to a place that is steeped in creativity – for example, an art museum or a science museum – that might inspire your creativity.
20) Doodle it. Instead of writing down your ideas in words, doodle your ideas: create small drawings and sketches to “visualize” a solution.
21) Find different pathways. If you always drive the same route to work, try a new route, or try taking mass transit. Or go try a new restaurant at lunch. For a whole week, go try new things and write down what you observe, or what changes you notice in your routine.
22) Shock your system! Take a cold shower when you wake up and then immediately be prepared to write down ideas. Challenge yourself to do a new physical activity – for example, running a half- marathon, doing a mountain biking race, or attempting your first Zumba class.
23) Take a walk. Go for a walk; observe a place where a lot of people are shopping, such as a shopping mall, an international food market, or a farmer’s market. Take photos with your smart phone of retailers who are doing different things to sell more products.
24) Test idea-altering substances. Test out different legal substances (coffee, mushroom coffee, beer, wine, Red Bull, dandelion coffee) to see if any of these substances is more effective in stimulating new ideas.
25) Road trip! Sometimes what’s needed is a good, old fashioned road trip. Whether it’s to another part of the city or to another part of the country, get into your car or truck and just start driving and observing.
Your office is a blank slate
In your workplace, there’s a palette in front of you that you can use in generating ideas: your office itself. Consider using your office as a birthplace for new ideas:
26) Idea wall. Create an idea wall – a permanent wall in your office or at home where you can just post your ideas and let them pollinate.
27) Let your ideas procreate. On a wall, post as many ideas as you can think of on pieces of paper. Keep a stack of paper in the room to allow other people to post their ideas on the wall. Group the ideas by what they have in common.
28) Map out your ideas. Create a map of ideas, starting with how your organization currently does things (such as market a product). Now draw a line from that existing practice to a new idea that would be related. It might be a minor change, but one change could lead to another change. And then another.
29) Storyboard the ideal customer journey. Create a step-by-step process showing the current process by which customers get to your brand today, and a step-by-step process on the ideal way.
30) SWOT analysis. As a way to warm up to develop ideas, conduct a SWOT analysis. List your organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to get the juices flowing.
Flip the script
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow
Sometimes creativity begins when we simply ask new questions, or start looking at things differently:
31) Define the box. Quite often, we hear the phrase “out-of-the-box” thinking. Well, it’s awfully hard to think out of the box when you may not know exactly what the box is, or what’s in it. Sit down with your work colleagues and define exactly what the box is, and what would be an idea or two that would actually be considered out of the box. For example, if your company is limited by what it can sell based on current federal or state regulations, what if those regulations were changed?
32) Generate $1,000 more a month. If you had to generate $1,000 more a month in personal income what would you do? Would you start selling stuff on Craigslist? Would you rent a room through Airbnb? Would you start driving for Uber or Lyft? Scale that to your organization: What would your organization need to do if it absolutely had to make an additional $50,000 a month to meet its revenue goals?
33) Express it. Think about how to express a creative concept in different types of media. If you handle social media and typically write Facebook posts to promote a product or service, imagine taking a post and creating a billboard, a print ad, a radio commercial, a direct mail postcard, or an event at a major sports venue. Imagine your idea as a blimp flying over the Super Bowl or being delivered by drone to a celebrity.
34) Channeling. Are there other systems, products or services that work well in other industries that you could channel to your industry? For example, what can you learn about recruiting people for the trucking industry from the restaurant industry?
35) Kill your darlings. Sometimes we get enamored with an idea, to the point that it sucks all the energy out of the room for other ideas. When you feel this start to happen, you need to kill it. Stop it in its tracks, regardless of how fond you are of that idea.
36) 1 percent better. Often — in fact, most of the time — we think we need we need to hit an idea out of the park for a home run. Instead, challenge yourself or your team to come up with a bunch of small ideas that will incrementally make something better or reduce a small problem from becoming a big problem. Remember, if you make a 1 percent improvement each day, that’s a 365 percent improvement at the end of the year.
37) Use reverse engineering. Imagine how you’d like things to be. Reverse engineer each step to help you uncover what you’re missing.
38) Mash it together. Look at your iPhone. It’s a camera, a phone, a calculator, a clock and much more. Look how all that has been smashed together. Imagine doing that with your company’s B2C or B2B products.
Research: the low-hanging fruit
Don’t underestimate the importance of simple research. There are many resources available to help you uncover new ideas:
39) Save previous business proposals, including those where you did not win the business. Previous business proposals are loaded with ideas that you might be able to use in future proposals.
40) Documentaries. Watch documentaries of other great companies and how they built creative cultures.
41) Grab the data. Ask the IT department in your company for sales data, website data, customer call center data – whatever data there is. Study it for clues about customer behavior.
42) Search Google Scholar to find research produced by academics. This research may offer ideas on experts to interview or interesting studies. For example, in the work I did for a Minnesota dental insurance company, we built a campaign around research completed about the power of a smile, including the economic benefits of keeping teeth healthy.
43) Competitors. Do a Google Search to find out what your competitors are doing about a specific issue or question, so you not only can avoid copying them, but can improve upon what they’re doing.
44) Time trip. Many times, we think we’re the first one to come up with an idea. But if you look back, maybe way back (decades or even centuries ago), you’ll find that someone else tried that idea. Examine your company’s corporate history. Interview employees who worked at your company or in your industry years ago. Are there ideas from the past that you could re-purpose for today?
People with good ideas might be sitting right next to you
Whatever role they play or departments they work in, your company’s employees can be good sources of new ideas:
45) Idea mentors. Identify the people who always seem to come up with the most and best ideas in your organization. Invite them to offer ideas for a new system – based on the culture of your organization – that will help more employees to come up with more ideas.
46) Leverage your mentors. Meet with your mentor(s) to share the problem or opportunity you’re facing and get some (free) advice.
47) Idea jar. Place a jar in your office and ask people to contribute ideas to it. Each Friday, pull an idea out and brainstorm more ideas around it. How about inviting everyone in your group to join you for a 4 p.m. “happy hour” to throw ideas into the Idea Jar?
48) Intern exit interviews. Many companies hire an intern or several interns for the summer. As their last project, ask your interns to submit a list of at least 20 action items that your company could do to improve its customer service, the treatment of its employees, etc.
The next step is to look to others, and work teams often develop new ideas after hearing from outside experts:
49) The futurist says… Invite a futurist to consult with your company, to share insights about what your target audience will look like in ten or 20 years, or the trends that will affect your industry.
50) Invite a comedian. Sometimes you need someone who just plain thinks differently from you. Consider a professional comedian or improvisational troupe for that type of thinking. Give them the problem or opportunity and have them create a comedy sketch that gets your people thinking in new ways.
51) Industry expert. Invite an industry expert in idea generation to train your department or company on techniques to be more creative and productive, such as conducting more effective brainstorming sessions.
Customers – and almost-customers
Every company’s goal is to serve and succeed with its customers. If you’re serious about doing that, you’ll tap them for new ideas:
52) Help line. Listen in on customer calls to your company’s customer service hotline. Make a list of complaints and start working to improve those products or services to eliminate customer service issues in the future.
53) Go to your customers. If you’re working on a program to sell more boats, go to a boat landing. If you want to sell more RV campers, go to an RV show. If you want to persuade more seniors to use your product, walk a senior’s expo show. Go to where you’ll find concentrated flocks of your target audience.
54) Customer feedback. Round-up customer feedback from your customer call center, your website’s “comments” or “contact” pages, and from social media. What are the 10 biggest complaints, and what are the 10 biggest compliments? Develop ideas to reduce complaints and fuel more compliments.
55) White papers. Write a white paper about a particular issue affecting your industry. Send it to five to ten key customers and ask them for their feedback either over the phone or with a coffee.
56) Rejectors. Interview a group of people that have rejected your company’s products or brand. Ask them why they did so, and what could the company do to win their business back.
57) Go where your company’s action is. If you’re marketing a trucking company, ride with a truck driver for a few days. If you’re in charge of human resources for a large financial services company, work behind the teller desk for a few days. Tag along with your sales team on customer calls.
58) The 20/80 rule. Gather the top 20 percent of salespeople (or top accountants, top marketing people, etc.) in your organization who produce 80 percent of your revenue and brainstorm with them about an issue. While you’re at it, find out what they’re doing differently that you could share with the other 80 percent.
59) Customer tour. Conduct a rock n’ roll tour of your greatest customers. Notice how bands market their tours, listing all of the cities they’re going to visit. Do the same, except visit your top 20 customers in your top markets to learn what they think.
60) Get your suppliers and vendors involved. Don’t overlook your vendors. Recently, the ad rep for a local billboard company showed me how they could post Facebook posts within just minutes on their digital billboards. This led to a campaign that connected social media with billboards.
Contests and incentives
People love contests: they get to participate in a fun activity, and compete for prizes. Try using contests to incentivize people to offer their ideas:
61) Ideapalooza. Send an email out to everyone in your department or company. Offer a $100 for the person who comes up with the most ideas on a specific issue within 30 minutes. Ideas must be written down and walked into your office. And, by the way, make sure you have a crisp $100 bill to pay out immediately!
62) Host a competition. Offer a cash prize for customers who offer unique ideas on how to use your product in a different application.
63) Cash rewards. Offer cash rewards to employees who submit ideas on how to save your company money, or how to recruit new employees.
64) Online contest. Conduct an online contest. Offer a nominal prize, such as a t-shirt – for suggestions on a particular problem or opportunity. Ask this question: “Why do you love our product or service?” – it’s a great way to quickly identify people who might be open to sharing a testimonial with your other customers.
65) Tradeshow survey. Conduct a short, five-question survey of people visiting your booth at an industry trade show to gather insights about a specific issue. Offer a prize to incentivize people in participating.
It’s typical for work teams to try to brainstorm new ideas. Here are some ways you can improve your brainstorming:
66) Cup of coffee. In his TED Talk, Where Good Ideas Come From, author Steven Johnson speaks about the interesting correlation between the opening of coffee houses in Europe and the United Kingdom and the age of the Enlightenment during the 18th century. So instead of a beer, invite a friend or peer for a cup of coffee and brainstorm for ideas about a problem or opportunity.
67) Brainstorm just the questions. Before you jump into idea generation, gather a group of your colleagues to brainstorm the questions that you should be asking to generate more relevant ideas.
68) Conduct a blind brainstorm session. Invite a group of coworkers into a room. Present the problem or opportunity and ask them to write down as many ideas as they can think of in 15 minutes on sheets of paper. Follow up with the group with an idea free-for-all after you post all of the ideas up on a wall in your office.
69) Inter-department coffee idea hoedown. Invite people – preferably your peers – representing at least four different departments within your company for a cup of coffee at a nearby coffee shop to brainstorm ideas.
70) Find another place to work. Recently, one of our clients asked if they could meet in our agency’s space for a morning business/brainstorming meeting. They needed to get out of their blah corporate space to feel inspired.
71) Get really strange. Either on your own, with a partner or with a brainstorming group, write down the most outrageous, craziest, most politically incorrect ideas about your problem or issue. Attack sacred cows. Think of ideas that would get your brand attacked by social media. Even ideas that would offend your mother.
72) Set up an idea assembly line. Organize a group of 10 or more people into an assembly line with up to four stations. The first team (two-three people) comes up with an idea and then hands it off to the next two-three people who add to the idea, and so on.
73) College classes. Contact a local university and see if you could conduct a brainstorming session with a group of undergraduate or MBA students as part of a class session.
74) Conduct idea intervals. On your own or with colleagues, gather in a meeting room and, for five minutes, write down as many ideas as you can. Hang your ideas up on a wall. Then repeat. Do this four times.
75) Partner with nonprofits. Connect with a nonprofit or a university to explore new ways your company could do good for that particular nonprofit and for the world.
76) Build a better mousetrap. Get samples of current products and put them on a table in a room. Invite co-workers or friends to look at each product and come up with ideas to make those products better.
Focus groups can provide a system and structure to tap people both inside and outside your company to weigh in with their own ideas:
77) The traditional focus group. Organize a traditional focus group with a professional moderator. Bring together people representing your target market and invite them to brainstorm on the issue.
78) Friends and Family. Pull together a handful of friends and ask them their advice or thoughts about a topic. Or, treat it like a game: ask each person to write down five ideas on a specific question, then have everyone share their ideas with the group. That discussion might generate even more ideas.
79) Teenage pizza party (and focus group). Know of some high school or college students? Offer to buy a small group some pizza in exchange for ideas – to gather the insight of Generation Z. Have a white board or sheets of paper to collect ideas.
80) Color it. Invite a group of people (employees, a focus group, etc.) to use crayons to sketch out and color their ideas.
81) Customer panel. Invite three to four people – current customers and people that you’d like to have as a customer – to serve on an in-person panel and share their thoughts about the challenges and opportunities they face daily in their jobs. Invite all of your employees to attend and to ask questions.
82) Form an advisory board. Sell products to librarians? Form a group of ten librarians from all over the country and invite them into your office twice a year to provide insights about their work and feedback on new products.
Social media offer a variety of innovative new tools and platforms for seeking creative new ideas:
83) LinkedIn. Post a question on LinkedIn asking for ideas on a particular issue or topic. I have used this technique many times to gather input for articles and potential sources to interview.
84) Online forums. Pose a question on an online industry forum or chat-room.
85) Survey email subscribers. If you maintain an email list with a service such as Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, survey those on the list to gather insights about an issue or question.
86) Ask your Facebook friends. Post a question on your Facebook page asking your friends for their advice. I recently did this – asking for advice on whether I should drop cable and what my alternatives were for TV. I received at least a dozen replies with very helpful advice – and I just saved myself $1,500 a year.
87) Email your friends. Send an email to a group of your good friends posing a question about your opportunity or challenge and ask them to share their ideas. Make sure your friends represent a range of backgrounds and occupations to give you different perspectives on the issue.
Do you or your fellow employees belong to trade associations, professional societies or similar groups? Don’t ignore the opportunities they offer for new and innovative ideas:
88) Award competition summaries. If you belong to a professional society – for example, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), to which I belong — it likely offers a program to honor exceptional work by its association members. Check to see if the society keeps the award entries and allows members to review them.
89) Industry conferences. Attend industry conferences to collect ideas from presenters. Or attend industry award shows to gather ideas.
Have some fun with idea generation by trying experimental, out-of-the-box approaches to the task:
90) Conduct an experiment. Think of an experiment related to the opportunity or challenge. For example, if you work for a financial services company and you want to emphasize your retirement products, bring together a group of people to conduct an adult version of the Stanford Marshmallow Test.
91) Public image. Post an image in a public place and watch people react to it. Take photos or video of them reacting to the image. Interview them and ask them to share what they’re thinking.
92) Sidewalk booth. Set up a table on a busy sidewalk. Invite people passing by to submit ideas to a question displayed on a poster. Pay $3 – the price of a cup of coffee – for ideas.
93) Challenge. Remember the Pepsi Challenge – a blind taste testing between Pepsi and other leading cola? How about conducting your own blind challenge between your product and another product in a public setting or with a small group of potential customers?
94) Gaming. Dungeons and Dragons, World of Warcraft, Farmville, Risk – take a deep dive into the game world for ideas that you can use in real life. For example, I once handled PR for an organization that formed a online fantasy fishing game based on professional bass tournaments. Seeing this made me wonder if we could set up fantasy games to engage customers in other industries, such as trucking.
95) Scavenger hunt. Send your team or a group of people out to the streets of your city, or perhaps to a big event, such as a food or music festival. Have them bring back photos of people, places and things they see related to your challenge or opportunity. For example, maybe the challenge is about improving customer service. Give prizes for photos/video showing great examples of customer service.
96) Internships. Ask if you could do an internship with a really creative company, such as an advertising firm, a tech company such as Google or Facebook, or a start-up.
97) Networking event. Conduct a networking event at your company. Invite a speaker – an industry expert, an industry analyst, the CEO of another company – to speak to your company’s employees and then have everyone submit ideas to a landing page that you’ve created for collecting ideas.
98) Do your own Think Week. Bill Gates is widely known for taking a week off each year to just think – to read and generate ideas. Try it yourself: If you can afford to get away from work, family and community obligations, rent a cottage on a lake and just think.
99) Ask Siri. And, I suppose if all else fails and you’re really desperate for some ideas, just ask your virtual online assistant (Siri or Alexa) a series of questions about your problem or opportunity.
What to do with all of your awesome ideas
SO, what do you do after you generate all of these new ideas?
Generating a large number of ideas often poses a problem in of itself – narrowing down your ideas so you can take action and solve the problem or take advantage of an opportunity.
There are a number of ways you can go about this. Bucket your ideas into:
Low hanging fruit – no brainer ideas that you should implement immediately!
Safe ideas that anyone, including your competitors, would come up with;
Crazy ideas that are too crazy for your organization/client or out of step with your brand;
Edgy ideas that are in line with your brand – the ideas that really get you excited;
Big, hairy audacious ideas that would likely die due to budget concerns or the complexity of implementing them based on available resources.
As part of this process, look at how to connect ideas, or take a bunch of smaller ideas and turn them into a big idea. For example, let’s say that you’ve developed 50 ideas to solve a problem and you can group those 50 ideas into three different themes. Maybe those themes are based on three different mindsets/personas of a customer, or three different types of customers (gender, age/generation, presence of children in the customer’s life, etc.).
Throughout this process of winnowing your ideas, there are two other factors to consider:
- What ideas can I easily sell (to a client, to the business leadership, board of directors, etc.); and
- What ideas advance the brand (always follow this rule: do no harm to the brand),
The key here is to find the balance between that which advances a brand or organization and that which is easily sellable/doable.
A third factor to consider is alignment – does your big idea (or ideas) enhance the alignment between a brand’s employees, the brand/company, and its external stakeholders, such as customers, investors, vendors, etc.?
This is critical: Whether you’re the CEO, a product manager, or working the phones in the call center, everyone within an organization is responsible for delivering the brand experience that a customer expects. Your ideas must be grounded in the organization’s values and its desire to deliver the sort of brand experience that brings back customers time and time again.
The Bottom Line
I believe that everyone is creative and that anyone can become an idea machine.
And, I believe that individuals, teams, departments and even companies can transform themselves into idea factories that generate not only more ideas, but more relevant ideas — bigger and bolder ideas that add greater value to a customer.
The key is identifying and testing different techniques to help you generate more ideas, and from there, building a system that allows you to consistently generate more ideas.
This list is just a start. I challenge you to come up with more creative ways to stimulate ideas.
Did you find this article helpful? Let me know — shoot me an email at stephen.dupont@pockethercules.
Stephen Dupont, APR, is VP of Public Relations and Branded Content for Pocket Hercules (www.pockethercules.com), a branding and creative firm based in Minneapolis. Contact Stephen Dupont at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.linkedin.com/in/stephendupont or stephendupont.co.
©2018 by Stephen Dupont