Idea Generation

Updated: May 9, 2020

Thinking aloud

One of the important elements for a founder is to develop, refine and work on ideas that are clear and concise. While it is important to think of an idea, it is equally important to be able to develop and communicate the idea clearly.​ As a founder you’ve to be a storyteller to sell your idea in range of situations like raising money to on -boarding customers or recruiting your first payroll employee.

What are good ideas?

Great ideas are simple or at-least that’s how founder make it look like. If it is a simple, clearly articulated idea, then it is well accepted in every point, in every step of value creation chain. Often a very complex idea signifies a poorly structured problem or muddled thinking.​

The construct of the idea includes

  • Size and the growth of the market,

  • Growth strategy for the company,

  • Defensibility strategy, and so on.

When you're evaluating an idea, you need to think through all these things, not just the product. If it works out, you're going to be working on this for ten years or so. So it's worth to take some real up front time to think through the up front value and the defensibility of the business. Even though plans themselves are worthless, the exercise of planning is really valuable.

Start with Idea Listing

A key part of idea generation start with the idea listing. It starts with the fact that not as a founder but as a consumer, you’d want that product or service and set out to create it

  • For example, how Bhavish Aggarwal (Ola founder) had a poor cab hiring experience on his business trips and ended up setting on journey to solve the problem, eventually creating a valuable company

  • Recently Mark Zuckerberg talked about his experiments to create “Zucklight” to address his wife’s anxiety to get up early.

If you as a founder think yourself as a target customer, then that is a great story to tell when you sell your product or service and it the best case. The best approach is look for problems, preferably problems you gone through by yourself. AirBnB, Apple, Google, Ola, Redbus all started this way.   A practical approach is to take a problem you’ve noticed and try to answer some key questions on the idea. Make a list of such complains/problems/ideas and work on them Idea generation is passive process. It is like being at home when your refrigerator is working, lights are on and you don’t even realize. Similarly, be receptive to problems and think how I can solve it, Do I have the resources, is it symptom or a real problem. So, it’s better not to try too actively to force yourself to come up with startup ideas. Go out of your way to hang around smart, interesting people. At some point, ideas will emerge. Don’t fret over ideas for too long. An average idea and great execution can give great start-ups. Be unbiased and pragmatic in evaluating ideas.

Brainstorming Ideas:

Once you have the initial idea that has caught your imagination. Its time to put some colours on it with some suggestions through a constructive brainstorming exercise. The ideal way to do brainstorming is to engage some friends and brainstorm some potential solutions to the problem. It would be great if these group of friends can also be the group facing the same problem but not necessarily.

Sorting through Ideas

Identify 2-3 sets of such groups- can be people you went to school with, or people you've met in your professional, social and personal life.​ The key of this process is to keep it constructive and pick friends for this activity who are smart and fun to brainstorm. Mostly constructive people instead of rejecting potential solutions they look at various aspects and dive to further improve them. As a founder, if you're not technical then also brainstorm with friends/colleagues who have technical background and experience.​

Navigating the brainstorming process should be simple is progressing in right direction?

In the next section we have outlined some frameworks to shortlisted and filter to brainstorm ideas.

If the group you picked is well rounded and experienced then your idea will see new dimensions and you will see some real excitement  about your idea in this group. This is the initial push that can make your startup come to life because the same group will feel some ownership for the solution you came up with together, this is the perfect time to ask them to work with you to actually build that solution.

It is rightly said that Rome wasn't built in a day and neither a successful startup.In fact, no startup success stories are ever written by a single individual. Every successful entrepreneur swears by his or her team working through the ups and downs together. ​The idea will morph into something very different as you scale it. Look at the picture below of Google  when it was launched on Sept 4, 1998 and how it has scaled since then.

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