How ideation can help turn your business idea into reality
For innovation to emerge and manifest, gathering and filtering ideas is a necessity
Conceptualizing a business idea is an irreplaceable component of entrepreneurial endeavour. A business is oriented towards delivering certain goods and services and there are stories behind whatever is delivered. Furthermore, no matter what the product, every purchase is fuelled by an idea on the other side of the spectrum as well. Ideation is about knowing your own story as well as connecting with the needs and interests of consumers
It has been often repeated that ideas without execution do not amount to much. Yet, you need to have a worthy plan to execute in the first place. Ideas are the key ingredients of inspiration and innovation and well-executed plans also convey ideas. Their centrality to an endeavour cannot be denied and particularly in the realm of business, they are crucial for strategy, entrepreneurship and innovation. Ideation thus acquires immense significance in the process of imagining, starting and sustaining businesses.
Ideation is commonly defined as the process whereby ideas are creatively generated and conveyed to people you are working with. This involves brainstorming, gathering information, collecting thoughts, prototyping and involving various workers and stakeholders. Speaking generally, conceptualizing a business idea is an irreplaceable component of entrepreneurial endeavour. A business is oriented towards delivering certain goods and services and there are stories behind whatever is delivered. Furthermore, no matter what the product, every purchase is fuelled by an idea on the other side of the spectrum as well. Ideation is about knowing your own story as well as connecting with the needs and interests of consumers.
Consider the beginnings of Facebook and the social media revolution. In the early stages, Facebook's initial alternatives was MySpace, a social network with numerous service issues. Regardless, when investors discovered the traction the site received despite the problems, the potential of social media was outlined. Facebook with better services got the investments it needed and overtook MySpace in no time. All of this happened because the idea of social media as a powerful tool for engagement was conceptualised with reasonable business considerations. This is an exemplification of the potency good ideas hold.
On a related note, it is to be acknowledged that to attract investment, you need to come up with convincing ideas. A potentially successful business idea takes account of resources and capabilities, looks to foster a network and reach out to people and knows the scope to generate revenue. Each of these things require a tremendous amount of thinking, planning and strategizing and in one word, ideating.
How do we start ideating then? What are the approaches to take and to avoid? Tucker Marion, an associate professor in Northeastern University's D'Amore-McKim School of Business, remarks that to ideate better, you need to have a variety of people involved, as it enables looking at things from various vantage points. Simultaneously, it is best to establish constraints or a framework that asks questions pertaining to budget, the client's objectives, time dedicated to brainstorming and so on. Diversity and framing the discussion ensure that all possible alternatives are explored without compromising resources.
The next step is to have an environment for the most open of deliberations. No idea is downright stupid during serious ideation, as the most seemingly outlandish ideas can carry great opportunities. Prototyping or creating a physical representation of your idea can be instrumental as well. It can enable stakeholders to visualize how the product will work, as well as provide a clear picture of the same to employees. However, the final challenge lies in selecting what ideas to pursue. Studies by the Academy of Management Journal found that organizations that gather a large number of ideas have difficulty selecting the most original and the most suitable. Dirk Deichmann, Violetta Rodopoulou, and Inga Hoever, writing for Harvard Business Review come up with an effective technique to handle this conundrum:
"Evaluate the benefits an idea promises relative to the cost of developing it. A concept that offers only incremental benefit but requires little investment might be more profitable than a fantastic idea that requires a lot of investment. In an approach analogous to value investing, the company's aim becomes to look for ideas that appear to have a high benefit relative to the cost of development."
Therefore, the final part of the ideation process is most simply put, a cost-benefit analysis. This thorough evaluation to prioritise certain ideas over others is irreplaceable for efficiency and profits.
Ideation, thus, is a holistic process that provides orientation to a business. It covers strategy, inspiration, fostering synergy and foresightedness and profitability. For innovation to emerge and manifest, gathering and filtering ideas is a necessity. It is most certainly the way to go for the best value to be created and the best narratives to be conveyed. Ideation, as a concoction of vision, creativity and vigilance fulfils this need and catapults a business to excellence.
(The author is Chief Impact Officer at Recykal Foundation)
Everything begins with an idea
- Earl Nightingale