Ideas are the lifeblood of business. It's up to you as the business leader to not only effectively present the brilliant idea to your team, but to keep coming up with those brilliant ideas that will keep your business momentum on track.
Studying the marketplace is one of the best ways to come up with new ideas. If you ask the right questions and look closely, you will find opportunities to invent everywhere. When you study the marketplace for ideas, you're all but eliminating the need to ask yourself whether people are willing to pay for your product (or service) and if they need and want it.
When you pull an idea out of thin air, you have to find out if there's actually a need or desire for it. Remember: you don't have to reinvent the wheel to come up with a great idea. I've perpetuated success simply by making small improvements to existing ideas that proved to be fundamental, but making the reasoned and intelligent selection must always be followed up with making the valid and complete effort.
Here are five "easy" places to look for your next golden opportunity:
1. Your competition What do leaders in your industry have planned for the future? Where is the industry headed? These are big questions, but they can be answered in part by checking out your competitions' patent applications. Many patent applications in the United States are published 18 months after they are filed. I don't spend a ton of time perusing the USPTO or doing Google patent searches, but I like to know what my competitors are up to. Checking out other innovations can be a great way to jog your creativity and inspire refinements that you know will be welcomed.
2. Inside product reviews Check out reviews on Amazon.com and other websites. What are consumers saying about offerings in your industry? What are their complaints? What do they wish were different? You may be able to come up with a better solution to a particular, persistent problem you now know people would pay for.
3. At trade shows Trade shows are great places to discover opportunities for invention. They always have a special section for new products and services. This is the first place I visit when I arrive. The excitement and energy at a trade show is palpable. It's impossible not to listen to the speakers, make new relationships, enjoy the special events and not get fired up. There's always at least one speaker who focuses on problems plaguing the industry. Can you be the one to find a solution?
4. In the aisles of your local retailer Talk to store managers and employees during a quiet time and ask them what kinds of problems customers are having. What are they looking for when they come in? Are they satisfied? They know what is selling and what isn't. There is so much knowledge to be gained simply by asking. Form relationships, and tap into that knowledge to jump start your brainstorming.
5. In your online search results There are many articles published online by writers who report (blog) on the minute ins-and-outs of an industry. For example, because I am still brainstorming television show set design for my branded show, I keep abreast of what's going on in the entire industry simply by searching for "new broadcast studio trends" online.
Identifying opportunities ripe for innovation is just the first step. You still need to put your creativity to use and come up with solutions to the problems you identified, inspired by the new trends in your industry.
All of these tips share a common thread: In order to keep coming up with great new ideas, you need to stay up-to-date and question the industry you're interested in. And, you need to remain both relevant and near to the consumer to determine the true balance that molds your personal creativity into the compelling consumer conversion.
Don't get complacent. Get creative. Stay nimble. Stay committed – your future depends on it!