You’ve reviewed your business from last year, right? What worked well, what bombed, your sales and expenses. Which products or services totally rocked and which were just meh. You’ve taken a look at the social media and web traffic to figure out where your customers and clients engaged or maybe they just didn’t. So now what?
You need opportunities for your business pronto and brainstorming is going to help!
After that deep review, all you’re left with is a bucket of questions you’d love to answer to make a solid plan for this year. What I've heard the most...
- I need to partner! Who can I collaborate with and what would we do?
- What new packages or products will my clients and customers most likely buy?
- What type of classes can I teach?
- How do I use Instagram or Pinterest better? My service isn’t ‘visual’.
- How can I spend less time working in my business so I can get back to enjoying life?
All great questions! If you could just find some ideas and solutions, you could really get to work and make some serious progress this year. Where to start?
How do you get your brain in gear for lots of ideas, instead of just the one light bulb moment you have every so often. There’s just not much momentum from one occasional light bulb.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous and amazing if you had a ton of ideas to choose from and you could pick the best ones!
What I’m suggesting is a good session of brainstorming. You’ve likely heard of brainstorming which has been around since the 1940’s as a method of creative problem solving. Usually, it’s thought about as getting a bunch of people together and talking about ideas and solutions on a topic.
But, you don’t have a group of people on your team! As a solo or small business owner, group activities don’t usually work. You can get good results with individual brainstorming for generating a list of potential business opportunities.
A few guiding principles will help keep you focused for the best success! Because who doesn’t want more business opportunities?!
You can still gain a lot of benefit from individual brainstorming. Consider brainstorming this month with the entire year ahead of you for launching your great ideas!
So what’s the point of brainstorming and why does it work so well for problem-solving?
- There are no bad ideas. No censorship. No Criticism. This is idea generation time! NOT the time for evaluating if the idea is worthy or practical. You’d be surprised how many ‘crazy’ ideas actually end up being very realistic.
- Time to encourage wild ideas. Think big. Remember this is not the time to be practical or rational or think of what you’ve only been doing.
- Quantity only! There will be later stages after brainstorming to assess quality but right now it’s a numbers game. So make it big.
How to brainstorm your way to solutions for your burning business questions:
- The Questions. Write down each of the questions or problems you’re trying to solve. I’d suggest starting with 3 of the big ones so you can get a feel for how brainstorming works. You can always come back and tackle other questions later.
- Set aside focused time. Target about 15 minutes for each of your questions or problems. No interruptions from the computer, your phone or people.
- Supplies. I’d suggest using a stack of post-its, a blank piece of unlined paper or a whiteboard works great. Just make sure you take a photo of your whiteboard before you erase all your good work!
- Fuel your brain. Before you start your focused brainstorming, fuel your brain and creative juices by spending time getting inspired. This is inspiration time not copying a competitor. Look at competitors, search a few keywords in Google and scroll through just the images, take a short field trip to a store, museum, bookstore or any place that might inspire you. Don’t think about how you’ll answer your questions during this inspiration time, just enjoy the ‘window shopping’, and the eye candy images.
- Time to brainstorm. Take your paper, post-its or white board and for 15 minutes start writing down every idea or solution that answers one of your questions. Remember NO censorship, just brain dump. If you think an interview on Oprah or getting your writing published in the New Yorker would be a solution write it down. Remember there are NO bad ideas there are just ideas.
Don’t go back and look at your inspiration, just get all the ideas out. Shoot for 30-40 ideas per question or problem. If you get stuck go take a 3-minute break. Take a short walk, stare out your window, stand in your backyard or on your balcony.
After 15 minutes move to the next question. If you have an idea for a previous question, write it down. This is where post-its come in handy so you can write and move to the appropriate question space.
Keep going and finish all your questions.
Success- You now have a bucket of ideas you can evaluate!
The next step would be to take each of your ideas and rank them. Rank them in 2 ways (1) how easy would it be to do and (2) how valuable is the idea. By value, I mean how much impact. Will it make you more bucks, get you better engagement, a bigger audience or more newsletter sign-ups.
Once you get your ranking, I’d suggest you start with the ideas that are easy and have a high value or impact. For those ideas that are hard to do and you’ve ranked with small value or impact cross them off the list. They just aren’t worth spending precious time on them.
If you’ve tried this brainstorming approach how many ideas did you come up with all together? Let's hear about in the comments.