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A Great Technique for Generating Business Ideas

Updated on February 19, 2016

Learn the rules of Brainstorming

You want to be in business for yourself and you are wondering how do I come up with that one idea that will get the ball rolling? Well, I guess you can buy one of those magazines that lists 1000 jobs you can do from home or you can type in the phrase ‘ 100 business ideas ’ and see what comes up. In fact, I did just that and the amount of crap that came up was astounding. For example, one particular website ranked in the top five on that search and their number one suggestion was… ‘make miniature models of local historical buildings and sell them at local shops.’ Yeah, that’s going to put the kids through college and pay the mortgage. I also stumbled across such winners as… ‘start a popcorn business’, ‘print and sell sports scorecards’ and my favorite….. ‘start a dating and escort service’. Really? Some guy’s crappy website just suggested I become a pimp? There are hundreds, if not thousands of these types of ‘business ideas’ floating around. To tell the truth, somebody might actually manage to make a dollar or two with some of them but it certainly isn’t what I think about when I wonder how I might support a family, own a house and a car and save for retirement.

Don’t worry though, there is a legitimate technique for generating business ideas that you can use and do. In fact, it is common place with many entrepreneurial businesses. However, there is a caveat to the technique I am about to tell you about… you will need the help of family or friends. You should also have an idea of what it is you wish to do or accomplish or at the very least, a general direction to get you started. The technique is called brainstorming and it can produce miracles.

I know you have heard this word before but did you know there is an actual technique to it and four (4) very strict rules you and the people you have chosen to do it with must follow? Brainstorming is used to generate a number of ideas quickly. When you get together for a ‘session’ with your team, the session must be targeted to a specific topic or agenda. Basically, the leader of the group (you) asks the participants to share their ideas. One person shares an idea and then the next person reacts to it and then another person reacts to the reaction and so on and so on. It is advisable you have a chalk board or white board in which to write down all the ideas and suggestions that are flying around.

Now, here is a very important thing to remember……. Brainstorming is not used for analysis or decision making. Let me say that again, it is NOT used for analysis or decision making. That will come later when you sit down and filter through all the ideas that were written down. In order to have a productive session, it must be freewheeling and lively. Remember the main objective is to create an atmosphere of enthusiasm and originality where lots of ideas are generated. There must be rules or brainstorming won’t work.

There are four rules that must absolutely be followed or your brainstorming session will be a complete failure. You will need to make sure that everybody is aware of these and agrees to them.

Rule #1: NO CRITICISM IS ALLOWED. This includes raised eyebrows, funny or disapproving facial expressions or laughs and chuckles. Criticism obstructs creativity and blocks the free flow of ideas needed to have a successful session.

Rule #2: Freewheeling is encouraged. This is the carefree expression of ideas, free of rules or restraints. You might be surprised how many whacky and nutty ideas actually lead to a good idea or solution. More is better when brainstorming for ideas.

Rule #3: The session moves quickly. It is more important to capture the essence of an idea rather than write it down neatly. Nothing is permitted to slow down the freewheeling, this should be a rapid-fire event of thought.

Rule #4: Leapfrogging is encouraged. This means using one idea as a way of jumping forward quickly to another idea and then another idea and so on and so on.

There are two reasons why brainstorming works. The first reason is because no criticism is allowed. When there isn’t any criticism in the session, people are more likely to offer up ideas and thoughts without the fear of being looked down upon or chastised.

The second reason brainstorming works is because it focuses more on creativity, rather than evaluation. Think about it, in a traditional meeting or discussion, a person offers up an idea and immediately the rest of the group starts to analyze and evaluate it. The sole purpose of brainstorming is to generate ideas with no evaluation permitted. With any luck, you just might find a really good business idea by using this simple idea generating technique. Good Luck and never be afraid to fail.

* Information and research for this article came from the text book… Entrepreneurship, Successfully Launching New Ventures, Second Edition 2008, Bruce R. Barringer, R. Duane Irland, Pearson, Prentice Hall Publishing.*

© 2011 Jamie Page


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    • MotherThumper profile image

      Jamie Page 5 years ago from Dahlonega, Ga

      Thank you.

    • prcheney profile image

      Paul Cheney 5 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

      I find lots of business ideas going on and looking at what people are making. A lot of times, they're making stuff because there is some significant gap in the market. Great brainstorming ideas. Thanks.