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20 Ways to Generate Ideas That Will Boost Your Business

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RISMEDIA, October 15, 2010—The light bulb. Bubble wrap. The Post-It. The iPod. The Snuggie. Facebook. Twitter. These inventions, products, and businesses all started with an idea. An idea that to anyone other than its creator(s) may have seemed like an insane thing to invest much time, money, or effort in bringing to fruition. But for the masterminds behind these great ideas, the risk paid off and so too can your next great idea.

“Great ideas are like gold,” says Jim Kukral, author of Attention! This Book Will Make You Money: How to Use Attention-Getting Online Marketing to Increase Your Revenue. “Everybody hopes to find them buried under the floorboards in their house. But just like finding gold, you often need a treasure map. In fiscally constrained times such as these, ideas are what matter most. Businesses live and die from the ideas they come up with. Great ideas get attention and bring people through the doors. The tricky part is figuring out how to find them.”

In Attention! Kukral teaches readers how to unlock their brains and start generating amazing ideas that will skyrocket sales, load businesses with leads, and create a powder keg of publicity.

Here, Kukral offers the some simple suggestions to help you generate killer ideas and jump-start your venture.

Carry a notebook. The only thing worse than not being able to come up with an idea is thinking of an amazing idea, not writing it down, and then forgetting it.

Eavesdrop. Listen to people talking on the bus, at the coffee shop, or in the elevator at work. “You’ll get a good feel for what people care about: their concerns, wishes, and interests,” explains Kukral. “And you may also hear a great idea or two in the mix.”

Do something new. Sign up for a class, take up a new hobby, listen to a different kind of music, or do anything that is new to you. Not only will it get new parts of your brain humming, you’ll meet and connect with new people—which is a great way to find new ideas.

Hold a grudge. What annoys you? When you think about the list of things you wish were different, the chances are those things also annoy other people. Keep a running list of all the things that bug you and find solutions that will make them better.

Find the peanut butter to your jelly. Take two ideas and put them together to make one new idea. “After all, what is a Snuggie but the mutation of a blanket and a robe?” asks Kukral. “Think beyond the obvious connections to come up with something truly innovative.”

Get physical. Movement increases the flow of endorphins, as well as sending more blood to your brain.

Get an outsider’s opinion. There are times when you are so close to a project that it creates a mental block for idea generation. Bringing in a fresh perspective can make all the difference.

Just listen. It may sound obvious, but really listen when customers talk to you. When you do, you will hear ideas for new products and services, ways to improve customer service, and uses you never considered for your products that can open up new markets for you.

Change your routine. New surroundings and new experiences can help your brain shift gears and get you to think differently. Drive a new route to the office, try a new restaurant for lunch, start work a little earlier (or a little later), work in a different place, or anything that busts you out of your rut.

Listen to music. You may find that a little Mozart awakens your creativity, or you may respond better to a little Metallica. Whatever works for you, fire up your iPod, get into the groove, and let your mind work.

Take a shower, walk the dog, do the laundry. How many great ideas do you get in the shower? It’s not a coincidence that great thinking happens in the shower. “Other mindless activities are great for brainstorming too. Wash the dishes, walk the dog, or fold the laundry. If you give your mind the chance to wander, you’ll free yourself to come up with a brilliant idea.”

Make a list. This is a tried-and-true method proven to work wonders. “Get out a notepad, or fire up your computer, and write down everything you can think of related to your issue,” suggests Kukral. “For example, if you need a new slogan for a product, write down every feature and benefit you can think of, the types of people who need the product, the problems it solves, and so on. Pull out a thesaurus and start looking up synonyms. When you are done, you will not only have your slogan, you will have a library of words and phrases you can use in your marketing and publicity campaigns.”

Wear a silly hat. Use a prop when it is time to be creative. It could be anything (such as wearing a silly hat) that signals to your brain that it is time to go into idea-generating mode.

Be a bookworm. Read everything you can get your hands on: business books, novels, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and everything else. The more raw materials you take in, the more you learn, and the more you know, the better you will become at putting together seemingly unrelated concepts to create something new.

Sleep on it. Just before going to bed, think about the ideas you want to generate. Be specific: “I will come up with great ways to promote our new widget. Tell yourself you will come up with a solution while you sleep,” advises Kukral. “Keep a pad and pen or a recorder next to your bed so you can capture the ideas as soon as you wake up.”

Ask the almighty Google. When you are stuck on an idea, try entering a few words related to what you are looking for. “Google will try to automatically complete your query, and may come up with just what you need,” says Kukral. “Then look at some of the search results to see what inspires you.”

Doodle. Make random doodles on a white board or piece of paper. Draw, jot words, make circles, or whatever you do when you doodle. As you loosen up, ideas may start to form on the page.

Forget everything you know. Too often, we let our biases creep in and influence our thinking. Start fresh, without preconceived notions of what you must do or what is impossible. Be open to anything and everything.

Borrow an idea. Everyone thinks that their business is not like anyone else’s. The truth is that all of our businesses are more alike than they are different. “Look at what others are doing in other industries and see how you can apply their ideas to your own business,” says Kukral.

Hire a professional. If you’re really and truly stuck on something, or if a deadline is rapidly approaching, there’s no shame in hiring a little outside help. “Hiring a consultant can be a great investment,” says Kukral. “Often times, they don’t even have to come up with the ideas for you. They simply ask the right questions that will lead you to the great idea that’s buried in your brain.”

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