Do-It-Yourself Business Planning Idea Blender

Humans are a creative bunch. Why not put that to use in your business planning? People have invented hoes, fiddles, eyeglasses, the airplane, bendable straws, computers, the sports bra, skateboards, light bulbs, the jitterbug, disposable diapers, safety pins, and Star Wars. Motives for invention vary from person to person:

  • Humans invent to save lives. The polio vaccine, air bags, laser surgery, and fat-free cheesecake

  • Humans invent to express deepest thoughts. Poetry, painting, filmmaking, dance, and music

  • Humans invent just for fun. Game shows, smartphone apps, rollerblades, Suduko, and professional wrestling

The best thing about creativity is that no one holds a monopoly on great ideas. You may not become a creative genius overnight, but with a little time and effort and by following a few basic steps, you can become a lot more creative than you may have thought!

To see what you can accomplish on the creativity front all by yourself, put the idea blender to the test. Take the following easy steps:

  1. Grab a couple of sheets of paper.

  2. Make four columns and fill them out as follows:

    • In the first column, list your personal strengths — for example, “I work well with people,” I’m very detail-oriented,” or “I’m not afraid to try something new.”

    • In the second column, list things you like to do. Include hobbies like playing videos, listening to classical music, skydiving, refinishing antiques, or reading.

    • In the third column, list cool products or services that you enjoy using. Maybe you’re really into smartphones, personal organizers, doggy day care, GPS devices, or stair machines.

    • In the fourth column, make a wish list of the things you’d do if you won the lottery and no longer had to worry about making a living — things like moving to a tropical island, buying your own private jet, traveling, or going back to school.

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  3. Blend the items from the rows.

    See what you come up with. Here’s how:

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    • Choose an item in the first column, such as “Creative, especially when it comes to software design.”

    • Choose an item in the next column. You can simply choose randomly or pick an item that seems to fit with your first choice, such as “Explore new Internet sites.”

    • Do the same thing in column three: Select an item that corresponds and circle it. Say that you choose “Computer-based music programs.” Don’t worry if you don’t see an obvious match. Make connections, even ones that feel offbeat. The process will get you thinking out of the box and allow you to see yourself and your prospects in completely new ways.)

    • Select an item from column four — “What I’d do if I won the lottery.”

    • Look over the items you’ve chosen. Use them to brainstorm three business ideas. Be creative. Entertain ideas you’ve never considered, such as starting a nonprofit organization.

    Bright ideas often sound a bit peculiar when first expressed. (Think of online auctions and mood rings, for example. And who would’ve jumped at the notion of a pet rock?) Yet many creative ideas emerge by combining familiar pieces of the world around you in new and different ways. (Think of TV dinners, car radios, and MP3 players, for example.)

  4. Try to pull at least three promising business ideas out of this process.

    In this case, the combination of an ability to do creative software design, a love of playing piano, and interest in teaching music suggest three pretty good ideas for business ventures. Not bad for a first run.

    Choose random combinations to see where they lead. Not all blender concoctions will be winners. “Work well under deadlines,” “Hybrid cars,” and “Retire to Hawaii” may not lead to a great business idea (maybe an environmentally-friendly car rental agency on the island?) But “Not afraid to try something new,” “Love to travel,” and “GPS devices” may be just what you need to create GPS-based tour guides of leading tourist destinations.

The idea blender is a great way to get an idea for a new business. But it can be equally effective at dreaming up new products or services for existing businesses. Some people have used it to find direction as they contemplate changing careers.

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