By Simon Paine, CEO of the Rebel Business School
Every business needs great ideas, and in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are going to need more of them. But, let’s face it, we all get stuck wondering what to do next, and I’m no exception. Here’s my approach to finding those lightbulbs of inspiration.
Take a 360 snapshot
The best way to start thinking of new ideas for your business is to focus. You need to understand exactly where you are today, if you want to imagine where you can be tomorrow.
Many of your best ideas will fix problems, or build on what you are doing already. So, take a 360-degree look at your business. Take a pad and paper, a whiteboard or post-it notes, and write down all things you’re doing well, doing badly, your opportunities and your ambitions.
It’s a kind of SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, targets), but I add every single aspect of the business – brand, social media presence, people, finance, strategy, product, customer service and so on. This provokes a richer and deeper harvest of problems and opportunities.
Find your lead domino
Sometimes, we find an idea so powerful that it cascades through the business – a domino effect.
So, after you’ve taken your 360 snapshot, start hunting for your lead domino. This may take some time but, once you find it, the impact will convince you it was worth the hunt.
Lead dominoes take many forms and are often so simple and seemingly obvious when we find them that it’s hard to believe we didn’t realise their potential sooner. The size of the task can sometimes feel paralysing. The lead domino forces you to focus on the thing you need to do first.
Bring in help
It’s always more fun, and easier, to find ideas when you’re with other people. So bring your colleagues, partners, staff, friends and even former co-workers into the process. Problems can often be solved remarkably quickly when they are shared with others.
It’s also good to involve others from outside your network. Aim to work in a mutually beneficial and non-competitive way. This might be through mentoring, swapping services or via a joint venture. For example, imagine you run a training business, pairing up with a software business that sells to the same customers could be very useful.
Think of the impact on both of your businesses if you figure out how to work together, such as sharing insights, ideas and selling each other’s products for a profit share. The only limit is your imagination. Using social media in a smart way is a likely first step. Start conversations, build relationships and your personal skills will be set to grow.
How would Elon do it?
We sometimes tackle a problem by asking: ‘how would Elon do it?’ Would he be able to find the lead domino? In my experience, Elon often does. Elon Musk has an incredible ability to focus and a tremendous work ethic. He’s effectively created the electric car industry from scratch and is working to colonise Mars. He is a big thinker and has outrageous ambition. So, when I ask myself the question: ‘What would Elon do?’, it pushes me to focus, triple my efforts and think much, much bigger.
The business strategist Tony Robbins always makes this point: never let an ideas meeting end without taking action. Maybe it’s sending an email, booking a meeting or posting on social media. Whatever it is, you must do something. Don’t let your ideas fade away.
If you’re struggling to find your lead domino then look down your list of weaknesses or problems and start to fix stuff. Often, good, fresh ideas are really simple, just tweaks. Updating your sales list, tidying up the home office, making a few small purchases that help you do your job better. Perhaps it’s time you created a few templates, instead of typing out that same email again and again. Fix a few problems, and you’ll feel differently about everything.