A tool for business creation

Ideas have always made the world go round, from solutions in medicine to innovations in engineering, physics, chemistry, astronomy, psychology, etcetera. The ability for humans to think and create solutions has always distinguished our species from every other on earth, and although our existence has been faced with a plethora of challenges, this one attribute has kept us going.

The question on the lips of every other creature, especially the primates (not that I speak monkey) is, how have they been able to pull it off for over 200,000 years? These folks (humans) are chaotic! 

Well, it has been the same principle all across the board. Some problems we simply adapted and learned to live with the way things changed, while for the majority of others we rose to the challenge and created solutions for them. From shelter to transportation, electricity, medicine, canned food, beautiful warm clothes, iPhones, name it, and as time went on creating these solutions evolved to become a source of livelihood for many (i.e businesses). 

In trying to solve our plethora of problems, different individuals have devised ideas and created solutions that if found valuable have been a source of both personal and economic sustenance for many. Over time, these individuals have been referred to by numerous names; philosophers, thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, etcetera. But for the sake of this article, we will be focusing on those referred to as entrepreneurs – individuals who take calculated risks and come up with valuable solutions, solutions so valuable that people are willing to pay for them. 

Ideation process in business creation

To some entrepreneurs, ideas come as a eureka moment with a light bulb over the head, accompanied by an ecstatic feeling of oh my gosh! I can’t believe I only just thought of this now. For others, it may take a whole lot than just a light bulb. It may require work, a deliberate act of thinking out an idea or ideas that will create enough value that people will be willing to pay for. This deliberate act is called ideation.

Ideation is the foundational and fundamental phase for the creation of any solution or business venture. It serves as the starting line for every business solution, and if wrongly done, it might affect the success or lifespan of the business. 

Different definitions and meanings have been ascribed to the concept, but to keep it simple, the term is gotten from the fusion of two words idea and creation, and it is simply explained as the creation of ideas or concepts. For the sake of a clearer and more elaborate definition – it is a creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas or concepts (Johnson, 2005). New concepts that will solve a particular problem in a way that is easier or more convenient that people will be willing to pay for them.

Having understood that ideation is important to build businesses, it is also pertinent to note that for an ideation process to be successful, it has to be aimed at solving a particular problem and this should be the basis for every ideation exercise. 

What problem do I want to solve?

Carefully answering this question makes it easier to build successful businesses using ideation as a tool. 

There are two general approaches to selecting a problem or an opportunity area.

  1. The broad and opportunistic approach 
  2. The narrow and focused approach.
Broad approach to entrepreneurship
Broad Approach
  1. The Broad and Opportunistic Approach; This approach is centered around the pain points of the customer. With no particular product or industry category in mind, in this approach, entrepreneurs look for big market opportunities – areas where a lot of people are experiencing similar pain points with little or no concrete solutions, and they try to create solutions around this problem for the market. 
Focused approach
Focused Approach

2. The Narrow and Focused Approach; Slightly different from the broad approach, this approach is centered around the entrepreneur and their capabilities. In this approach, the entrepreneur is more specific about areas of involvement. They only concentrate on products or industries they are familiar with and then leverage their expertise or passion in these specific products or industry areas to identify and solve problems. 

Your understanding of these two approaches makes it easier to choose an area of focus for your ideation process or exercise. Just for the notes, there are a dozen ideation techniques out there a few we will mention in this article, but they all come down to one thing, creating valuable solutions.

Solutions are for people. To solve people’s pain points, you have to truly understand their pain, and the best way to do this is by identifying and engaging them. Carry out user research, ask well-thought-out questions that will stir up a deep understanding of their problem. 

This phase is important in the ideation and business creation process because according to Christensen, Allworth, and Dillon (2012), “many products fail because companies develop them from the wrong perspective. Companies focus too much on what they want to sell to their customers, rather than…what problems customers are trying to solve.” In other words, they do not fully understand the customers so they create what they assume is best but not really what the customers need – a fundamental error in the business creation process. Many businesses and products are failing due to this misconception.

While still ideating, ask very important and defining questions, and try to answer these questions correctly before forging ahead. Questions like;

  1. What problems are people trying to solve?
  2. What are their pain points?
  3. How are they mitigating? 
  4. What do they want?
  5. What would they need? (Very Important)

Henry Ford comes to mind whenever the question of what would they need is mentioned. Ford asked, “What problems are people buying this horse to solve?” From his question, he discovered that they needed a quicker, more convenient, more comfortable way to get from Point A to Point B, but he also explained that “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted; they’d have said a faster horse.” 

You’re engaging your customers to get a better understanding of their problems. Understanding their pain point does not by any means mean you should restrict your innovations and ideas to their current state. Contrary to usual belief, the customer is not always right, sometimes you just have to come up with what they need and they will line up to pay you for this, like in the case of Steve Jobs and the iPod. 

As stated earlier, there are different ideation techniques, but for the sake of this article, we will be mentioning only but a few, which we will build on in subsequent posts; 

  • Brainstorming 
  • Mind Mapping
  • Storyboarding
  • Opposite thinking 
  • Crazy eights, and a whole lot of others.

These different ideation techniques all have their different processes of solution creation with their corresponding pros and cons. In the end, it all still boils down to coming up with solid solutions and businesses that provide enough value, a value that people are willing to pay for overtime in other to solve their various needs, wants, and challenges.

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