Brainstorming Techniques for Entrepreneurs
Whether you’re trying to come up with a great home business idea, or you’re looking for new ideas to boost your income in your existing business, brainstorming is an excellent way to generate ideas. In business, brainstorming is often done in groups, but even as a solo entrepreneur, you can use brainstorming techniques to generate ideas.
Not only can brainstorming help you generate ideas that might not have otherwise been considered, but it can also help you better understand where your business is struggling, and where you need to focus your time.
Here are 7 brainstorming techniques that you can do on your own that can help you expand your mind to new ideas and strategies for your home business. You can use one, several, or all of these techniques to generate ideas. Plus, you’ll find rules for maximizing brainstorming success, as well as helpful tools.
Start With a Question
An easy way to generate new ideas is by answering a question. If you’re looking for a home business to start, a question might be to ask what business will help you meet your goals.
For example, if you want to travel the world, your question might be, “What home business is flexible and portable enough for me to travel the world?” If you’re struggling to generate enough clients or customers, a question might be, "What is the one thing my customers or clients want the most?” Or, “Where do my customers go to find help with what I offer?”
Use a Mind Map
The mind map has been used by many great thinkers including Leonardo DaVinci and popularized in the twentieth century by Tony Buzan. It’s ideal for people who respond to visual tools. There are mind map programs for computers and apps for digital devices, but all you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. You can use color pencils, as initially suggested by Tony Buzan when he introduced his mind map concepts.
Here are the steps to mind mapping:
- Start with a word, question, or image in the center of the page.
- Draw a line from the center outward, and add a related word, question or concept. You can have as many of these next level ideas as you want.
- From those second level concepts, draw a line or lines and add words related to the sub-topic.
- Continue to draw lines with related keywords for as long as ideas come to you.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to come up with marketing ideas. You can have as your center topic “Marketing.” Next, you can have spokes out that include “Building Community,” “Media/PR,” and “Advertising.” From your “Building Community” spoke, you can have “Facebook Group,” and a link from that might be “Weekly Facebook Live.” From your “Media/PR” spoke, you can have “HARO Report” and “Create Monthly PR Plan.”
Similar to a mind map, a world map is a visual way to brainstorm things like your business name or tagline. Start by writing down all the words related to your business or brand goals. For example, if you want to start an organic gardening business, you might write “organic” and “gardening.” For each word, write down related words that come to mind. In our example, you might write “safe,” “clean,” and “vegetables.”
Use a SWOT Analysis
If you’ve done your business plan, chances are you’ve done a SWOT analysis. The SWOT isn’t just helpful in your business plan. It can also be a great brainstorming technique. Make a four-square grid by drawing a line vertically down the middle of a piece of paper, then a line across the middle horizontally. In the upper left box put “Strengths,” and the upper right box “Weaknesses.” In the lower left box write, “Opportunities,” and in the lower right box, “Threats.” In each box, write down corresponding words, ideas, and concepts that come to you.
For example, let’s say you’re trying to decide if you want to start a blog. Under “Strengths” you can list all the positive aspects of blogging as a business idea, as well as your personal strengths, such as “It’s low cost to start,” “I’m an expert on the topic,” etc. You want to do the same for “Weaknesses,” such as, “I’m not tech savvy,” “It can take time to generate a good income from a blog,” etc. Under “Opportunities,” you might put, “There are many ways to generate income from a blog,” and under “Threats” you might write, “Lots of competition.”
Spend Time In Your Customer/Client’s Shoes
It’s a mistake to analyze and make decisions solely from a business owners’ perspective. The best ideas will be those that resonate and attract clients and customers, and the best way to do that gets into their shoes. Surveying your clients can customers can help with this, but also, working through your marketing, sales, buying, and customer service systems as a customer or client, can help you generate ideas to make the experience better for them.
Ask Who, What, Why, When, Where, How
In brainstorming, you’re looking for answers to questions, but sometimes you’re not sure what questions to ask. Going back to the basics of who, what, why, when, where, and how can help you generate ideas to improve your business. You can simply list these questions, but if you’re a visual person, you can sketch them similar to a mind map, called a starburst.
When starbursting, you start with your main idea in the middle, and then draw lines out with your basic questions of who, what, why, when, where, and how at the end of each point. Using each of these basic questions, generate more questions related to your main idea. For example, let’s say you want to make money in affiliate marketing. You’d put “Affiliate Marketing” in the middle. The “How” spoke can have questions such as “How will affiliate products be promoted?” In the “Who” spoke, you might ask, “Who is the ideal person to buy my affiliate products?” Don’t stop at one question for each spoke. Write as many questions that come to mind.
Once you have the right questions, you can generate answers that should lead to ideas, and help you focus your business to-dos.
If Money and Time Were No Object
Have you ever played the game where you answer the question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” In this scenario, your mind opens to all your hopes and dreams, free from the constraints of your current life.
The same is true when brainstorming. Too often, your brain will eliminate ideas because don’t think you have the resources. So, to keep your mind open to all potential ideas, brainstorm what you’d do if money and time were no object? If you could build any business, or tackle any idea, what would it be?
Tools for Brainstorming
When it comes to brainstorming, a piece of paper and pen or pencil is all you need. With that said, because it’s a creative endeavor, you need the tools that will help you generate the best ideas in a way that you can assess and use them later. Here are a few tools you can use:
- Idea Notebook: Keeping your ideas all in one place is a great way to refer back to old brainstorming sessions. Further, when you’re done brainstorming, you can continue to keep a notebook with you to jot new ideas as they come to you.
- Colored pens/pencils: Using color is aesthetically pleasing, which can be helpful if you’re creative. It can also help you sort out and organize your ideas.
- Mind map apps: There are a host of free and low-cost mind map apps online that you can use on your computer or another device.
- Whiteboard or large piece of paper: This is often used in group brainstorming sessions, but can be effective even if you’re by yourself. Large writing surfaces can help you avoid the constraints of writing in a smaller space.
- Sticky notes: The advantage of sticky notes is the ability to move them around on a larger surface.
- Recorder: While you should write down your brainstorm ideas, sometimes it can be helpful to record them first. Vocalizing ideas can often generate ideas easier than in your head. Of course, if you belong to a mastermind group or have a coach, talking about your issue can not only help you clarify and get ideas but also receive feedback.
Rules for Brainstorming
The purpose of brainstorming is to generate a ton of ideas that you can later go through to decide which are best for your goals. Unfortunately, the brain has a natural tendency to filter, judge, and assess ideas. Chances are, you’ll not write down some ideas because you think they’re dumb or undoable. But you can’t do that. Here are the rules you need to follow to have productive brainstorming sessions:
- No judgment: Write down all ideas no matter how crazy or impossible it might seem. Will being on a national morning television show skyrocket your credibility? Write it down if it comes to you. Ideas that are too pie-in-the-sky should be included because they can often lead to other ideas that are not too out there. Plus, it never hurts to reach for the stars. For example, it might seem impossible to be on a national morning TV show, but that idea could lead to reaching to local morning shows or national radio shows.
- No evaluation: Brainstorming is simply a mind dump of ideas. Whatever the idea, write it down. Brainstorming is not the time to decide if it’s a good idea or how it could be carried out. Evaluating ideas comes later.