Stuck in a rut? Need new product or marketing or management ideas? Relax and keep it simple. Doing the same things you’ve always done may not seem like a great way to trigger creativity. But if you slow down and delve deeply into what seems everyday and ordinary, frequently you can make fresh discoveries and ignite new ideas you can apply to your business.
1. Engross yourself in a favorite hobby.
Dig deep into whatever diversion fascinates you. Consider the innovative products and technology applications that your hobby has spawned. See how business owners reach their narrowly defined target audiences.
A craftsperson might analyze the landscape of selling fine crafts and one-of-a-kind handmade items. How do large retailers market and sell low-priced crafts? How have craft shows changed over the last decade? How do Etsy.com sellers promote their unique offerings?
A runner may consider product innovations: Performance apparel commands premium prices, how GPS technology has become integrated into training devices, how community races attract hundreds and thousands of people.
The types of ideas that pursuit of a hobby can trigger:
- Design of new products
- Applications of technology for improved performance
- Methods of packaging and delivering services
- Unique pricing structures
- Techniques for creating and selling experiences
2. Shop around in a single retail niche.
Pick a niche that is served by several stores in your area. You might choose ice cream shops, hardware stores, or consignment shops. Make a real-life visit to see how business owners differ in their tactics. Take your time to observe and scrutinize various approaches.
Contrasting methods of delivering the same product or service can generate ideas about how you can differentiate your own business from its competitors, such as:
- Product selections and display
- Methods of managing employee-customer interactions
- Ways of promoting the value of independently-owned businesses rather than national chains
3. Simmer happily.
Creative thinking may be spontaneous but it is not always instantaneous. It’s true that some creatives offer brilliant ideas within minutes of hearing strategic concepts. But others need hours or days to let thoughts simmer. Give yourself time instead of rushing to get results.
Contemplation can work especially well to elicit these types of ideas:
- Creating strategies to capitalize on new business opportunities
- Resolving long-standing problems
- Discerning whether opportunities or problems need to be reframed in order to trigger the right response
4. Talk with smart people, and listen.
I am amazed at how much information smart people are willing to share. Toss out a topic and you can garner insights on historical perspectives, current trends, and predictions for the future. Listen and probe to gather wisdom relevant to your business.
Solicit advice to produce ideas on:
- Determining next steps for your business in critical areas such as innovative products, use of technology to deliver services, and messaging targeted customers
- Pinpointing areas in which resources can be allocated to support these next steps
5. Take a break.
Fixation on one topic can cause frustration, which is counterproductive to creativity. Taking a break allows you to move from laser-like focus to broadened understanding.
Time away can benefit your creative thinking and help you:
- Redefine a problem, or recognize that a certain issue is inconsequential
- Realize that a certain path to develop a new product or reach a new market isn’t worth pursuing
- Start asking different questions that yield the answers you need
6. Consume media.
Witness creative expression or find examples of ineffective communication by checking out videos, watching television, playing games, reading news, listening to podcasts, etc. Learn cultural references of many generations and groups.
Critical evaluation of all kinds of media can activate thinking about:
- Reaching new audiences
- Conveying a message through images, dialogue, words, and interactivity
- Describing ways of sharing stories that compel people to action
7. Keep up with a blogging superhero.
Find the blogger who shares your values, wrestles with ideas that excite or trouble you, and gives both high-level and practical insights relevant to realizing your vision.
Read blog posts to provoke thoughts on:
- Discovering what’s missing from your strategic plan and its execution
8. Watch your kids, who are unencumbered by fear.
Before he became a teenager, my youngest son was never afraid to try anything. Buttons were pushed endlessly and while electronic devices were broken, new computer applications were discovered. His experimentation was unnerving to me but illuminated the process of testing ideas in order to learn how actions create reactions.
Since reading Poke the Box by Seth Godin, I am even more comfortable with the concept of unleashing creative thought, refraining from filtering ideas too early in the brainstorming process, and using idea testing to gain wisdom.
Observe your children making discoveries or ask your friends who have kids about how their children go about understanding their world. Use these insights to create your own Poke-the-Box action:
- Encourage your team to generate ideas that you may have previously considered outrageous or impractical
- Figure out methods of testing ideas
Assess outcomes and refine ideas to achieve desired results for your business