For the past couple weeks my conversations have been noticeably more exciting. Why, you ask? Because I’ve assumed the role of sounding board! Students in the Compass Fellowship have begun conceptualizing their social business ventures. They’re kicking around interesting, new ways to create financially-sustainable businesses that can tip the social impact scale. I’ve had the honor of hearing some of those ideas near the time of their conception. But I’ve noticed a pattern – for the Compass Fellows whose initial ideas haven’t given them that burning desire they hoped for or for the ones who have remained in the search, the same question has come up time and time again: “What is the best way to approach idea generation?”
The first part of my answer is always that the process is organic and that the right approach for one person might be completely different for another. Let’s face it –we’re all different and our ideas are a reflection of that unique individuality. Nevertheless, I think there are a couple things that apply across the board that can contribute to a solid foundation for new idea. Here are five things to consider:
- Self-reflect - you are looking for that sweet spot where your passions, talents and abilities meet an existing need. The first step in mastering that is understanding yourself and taking the time to reflect.
- Step outside your comfort zone –escaping your normal routine and experiencing new things produces the perfect backdrop for idea generation – you are more likely to look at things differently, notice things you haven’t before and feel that ‘spark’ you’re looking for.
- Write everything down – this allows you to store and revisit everything you’ve come up with. It’s important not to be picky with what you record, though – this limits the possibilities.
- Constantly review your earlier ideas – this gives you a chance to organize, combine and prioritize all of your thinking. More than anything it gives you the opportunity to expand upon ideas with strong potential.
- Surround yourself with the right people – perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of this process is the sounding boards you line up. You want to surround yourself with people who are both encouraging and constructive – these shouldn’t be people who shoot your idea down prematurely nor people who blindly endorse everything you propose.
~ Arthur Woods, Co-Founder of Compass Partners