Make money with your ideas

I have no idea who Arnold Glasow is and I couldn’t really be bothered to look it up. But I saw an awesome quote from good old Arnie. He said “Ideas not coupled with action never become bigger than the brain cells they occupy”. Let’s look at getting your ideas moving.

Coming up with great ideas

There is a common misconception that to come up with a game changing business idea, you need to be either some sort of visionary or an uber creative genius (excuse the pun). This is not true. Most ideas are not thought of by some dude sitting under a tree, who after meditating for half an hour has an epic moment of clarity.

Most ideas involve a clear understanding of a consumer need and a novel solution to their need. Let's look at some tips for each component of master idea generation.

     1.  A clear understanding of a consumer need

  • Speak to others as much as possible. Speaking to others will give you a different perspective to that of your own. As Mr Facebook Mark Zuckerberg said “You grow more when you get more people’s perspective”. You also learn a lot more.
  • Figure out a consumer need before they do. The best innovators in the world discover a need that consumers do not even know they have yet. This is what Apple has continuously managed to do. Steve Jobs said that if he had to ask people what they want, by the time he creates it, they will want something else. Similarly, one of the greatest innovators of all time, Henry Ford said “If I had asked people what they want, they would have said faster horses”. Speak to people 
  • Engage with the right forums. A great little trick to pick up ideas is from forums, comment boards or review platforms such as Yelp. Bill Gates said that ”Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” I want to extend this. Your competitor’s unhappy customers are also one of your greatest sources of innovation. Understanding where existing service or product providers are falling short of meeting consumer demands, will spark ideas. 
  • When life throws you lemons, make lemonade – Every time you find something annoying in life, think to yourself  - what would need to exist to take away this frustration? For example, if you hate sitting in traffic, use that time to brainstorm a solution for reducing traffic. The founders of Waze did just that. They took a common cause of frustration namely traffic and set out on creating a novel solution to this problem.

     2. A unique way of solving this need.

  • Don’t be afraid to keep it simple  - Great ideas are not always the coolest ideas. They are usually the simplest and most practical. I might be opening myself up for criticism with my next statement but what the heck.  Look through the list of Unicorn companies (privately held companies valued at more than $1 billion). Most are simplistic ideas that were immaculately executed. They all solve a definite need or want. Few relied on extreme creativity or complexity. Most are based on someone seeing something simple that others were unable or slow to perceive. They managed to break through a previous limitation but they did it simplistically. Keeping it simple is something that the most intelligent battle with. But my message to all the smarty-pants (is that the plural, who knows?) out there is the goal is not to prove to others that you are clever. The goal is to create a successful, profitable solution.
  • The power of connecting things - Steve Jobs once said: “Creativity is just connecting things”. Great ideas or innovations often come from connecting things that nobody else had thought to connect to one another. A resource I like to use for inspiration is Trendhunter. Through Trendhunter, you are able to keep your mind fresh and see all the latest innovations that are popping up around the world.  Use your own power of connection or association next time when thinking of ideas. The only benefit of traditional group brainstorming is that someone else’s silly suggestion might create a connection in your mind that you had not made before.
  • Look at the essence of ideas not just the idea itself - keep up to date with the latest products being released worldwide. Look at innovations from all sectors and why they have captured consumer's hearts. Think whether you can connect the core of ideas from other industries to create new solutions in your industry. A great resource for keeping on the ball and your mind fresh, is Trendhunter. Trendhunter is the world's largest trend community. For no charge, you can search through the latest innovative ideas from around the globe.
  • Learn from your travels - Pay special attention while travelling. We take so many things around us as a given because that is the way they have always been. When we travel and see that things are done differently in other cultures or locations, we begin to question whether our local way is best. This is not only true but particularly for those who live in 3rd world countries. You can ask yourself what solutions are popular in the US for example that might have an equal opportunity for success in your country.
  • Leverage breakthrough technologies – There are many successful companies that have been launched off the back of the success of other companies. For example:

               - Google’s dominance created the demand for SEO solutions

               - With Airbnb’s success, there was a need for hosts to optimize rental prices and to reduce the hassle of hosting. A number of startups have launched to fill this need.

               - Facebook’s success created the need for many other solutions. This includes the ability to sell products on Facebook or social media marketing solutions.

               - Twitter’s restricted character tweets created the need for shorter link creation solutions.

        So pay attention to the next wave of up and coming technologies. Think what new needs these might create and be first to create the right solutions. 

An idea generation framework

You also need to create the right structure for idea generation. Here are some quick tips:

  • Schedule a specific time each day (or at the least every other day) to think of new ideas. Life is fast. If you don't schedule it, it won't happen or this time will naturally be interrupted.
  • Write down your ideas. You can either store them electronically or put yhem in a spreadsheet. Or what I prefer doing is keeping a nice old-school notebook. Categories your ideas for easy reference. An idea may be incomplete now. But, a future idea that you may have, could “connect” with an older idea to form a major breakthrough.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your idea (with those you can trust) - Speaking through ideas makes it easier to discover any flaws in your thinking.
  • Focus your ideas in an area that you are passionate about - Thinking of an idea is one thinking, bringing into life is quite another. 
  • Think big - Life is too small to be mediocre. Richard Branson said "If your dreams don't scare you, you are not thinking big enough".
  • Be practical - An idea that is only great in theory is a rubbish idea. As mentioned above keep it simple.

Getting paid for your ideas

Ideally, when you have an awesome idea, you can dedicate yourself to turning it into a reality. (I plan to show you just how to do that in future blogs so stay tuned).

But, most people don’t have the skills, drive or spare time needed to do so. Often the people who are great at idea generation are also the weakest at execution.

Luckily, there are companies that are willing to pay you for your ideas:

  • Edison Nation has partnered with some of the largest consumer product companies to bring them new innovation. You are able to either submit a product idea of your own or respond to one of their product challenges. They have an extensive review and vetting process for each idea.  If your product idea is chosen, tests successfully and they bring it to market, you receive a percentage of the future gross revenue.
  • InnoCentive and IdeaConnection also specialize in connecting solution seekers to problem solvers like you to help solve their most pressing problems. These Organizations post their challenges with incentives. If your solution is chosen by the organization, you will be compensated by the incentive agreed upon.
  • YouZingit has a similar but slightly different approach. After posting your ideas on the site, interested parties are able to view them in summarized form for a small fee. If they are interested further, they are able to buy the licensing rights for your ideas. You can set your own price for your ideas and designs. If you sign up for their premium account, you can earn even more through the "view fee". This is a charged to the potential customer who wants to view the full idea.
  • Now great ideas do not only include products and solution innovations.  Naming Force and Slogan Slingers let you pitch your ideas for company/product names and slogans. If yours is selected you will receive the pre-specified award


W.J Cameron said “Money never starts an idea, it is the idea that starts the money”. It’s time to use your idea to get your money started.

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