When people think of the word “work,” a creative space perfect for cultivating ideas isn’t exactly what comes to mind. But really great startups tend to do one thing well, and that’s innovate.
I wanted to know how successful founders make sure creative juices are always flowing (even if their office or local coffee shop isn’t necessarily the next Googleplex). So I asked 8 entrepreneurs the following question:
Where do your best ideas come from? And how do you cultivate a culture where inventing new things is part of “work”?
Below are their favorite tips and tricks for inspiring their team to constantly generate ideas.
1. Question assumptions to improve
For us, the best ideas come from examining how to maximize each facet of our business. In salons, only 7 percent of people purchase hair products. That is an average that doesn’t change and is generally accepted. Why? What about the other potential 93 percent of customers? They’re buying the products somewhere else. How do we get them to buy them in a salon where the recommendations are personalized?
It was this kind of early questioning in our own salon business, Birds Barbershop, that led to the creation of our hair product brand, Verb Products.
2. Recognize problems and fix them
Everything I have ever worked on has stemmed from a problem I’ve had. I think that if you try and find ways to make your own life better, then chances are you will come up with something that could make other people’s lives better, too.
If you look at most of the successful companies today, they all fix or make a particular problem better.
3. Implement company forums for customers
The best problems are discovered in a company’s forums where customers complain and provide feedback about products and services.
As an entrepreneur, you can browse through those forums and generate entire product ideas for solving the problems of those very customers.
4. Hold pitch competitions to produce ideas
Our best ideas come from our employees. We have a monthly pitch competition to elicit the best ideas. Everyone in the company pitches ideas, and the winner gets an award, such as a gift card (plus the inherent bragging rights).
The competition makes everyone more conscious of what systems and processes work. Some of our best ideas have come from encouraging everyone in our company to identify opportunities to build technology that could make us more efficient and more effective.
5. Use IdeaPaint to encourage creativity
We have weekly high-level strategy meetings where we can talk about our big picture. We have wall-to-wall IdeaPaint throughout our entire office to encourage creativity.
We also have a dedicated portal in Asana where anyone in the company can leave a new idea for the product team to review.
6. Create new solutions to new problems
Our best ideas come from our customers. We constantly review client feedback in order to build the products they need to be successful.
Technology is constantly changing, and therefore our product is always changing. Creating new solutions to new problems is what we do.
7. Hear everyone’s opinion for a happy company culture
As a God-fearing person, my best ideas come to me when I am most humble and thankful for my success. Cultivating a culture that breeds successful ideas is much easier to do than most people think. Three ingredients are needed to do so: healthy snacks, a Ping-Pong table and the ability to hear everyone’s opinion.
If someone feels like he can make a difference and that his voice will be heard, then you have cultivated a happy, healthy and creative work environment.
8. Streamline an existing product
I think the best way to cultivate an idea is to look at obsolete businesses or products and think about how simple changes could solve the problems associated with the products.
Some of the best services are not complex, major changes, but rather just simple changes that help streamline something that already exists.
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