Are Your Business Ideas Good, Bad or Crazy Enough to Be Amazing?

Entrepreneurs are the epitome of idea generators. The best will go through more ideas in a day than most will have in a year, with the challenge being selecting which ones to dedicate the time and attention to bring them to reality. But how do you separate the good ideas from the bad, the truly innovative breakthroughs from the impossible and stupid to try ideas? How do you spot the great opportunities among the merely good ideas?
Although some business ideas are unique, Kevin Duncan says most of them are actually conceptual blending, combining two aspects that weren’t already joined or taking an existing idea and applying it in a new context. Combining the classic spreadsheet method of accounting with a computer that could keep the records indefinitely, be easily edited and do the math for the person turned Microsoft Excel into a killer app. The iPhone is a classic example, combining a cell phone with an MP3 player with a mini-computer capable of internet access. When speaking about business processes, the assembly line seen in meat packing facilities applied to automobile manufacturing is what allowed Henry Ford’s business to take off. Kevin Duncan is an author of more than twenty books such as “The Ideas Book: 50 Ways to Generate Ideas Visually”, and he describes many more such examples in his works.
Having an idea isn’t enough, and anyone can have a business idea. What you need to succeed is enough people willing to tap into the idea either as investors or customers in order to build a business. You’ll know that you have a good idea (or a great one) when you ask potential customers what they think and they tell you how much they are willing to pay for it above and beyond what the market currently bears.
It isn’t just a matter of asking customers what they would be interested in or desperately want. You should also talk to the experts, especially if the product is technical. Don’t design a new car seat, for example, without knowledge of getting it approved by the National Transportation and Safety Administration, or a new food product without an idea of how to make it legal to sell beyond your back door. Ask people in the industry how much the materials cost, how much it costs to outsource manufacturing or build it by hand. Get the information you need to run the cost benefit analysis to determine if it is worth investing time and money into the idea. If you can command a higher premium for your product or service by adding a little more value, you could make a fortune. For example, the video stores that combined with pizza places so that people order the video while they ordered pizzas at a price similar to the Redbox kiosks but without the hassle of picking up the video have kept Family Video in business while Blockbuster shut down. Medical offices that added on spas so you could spend the hours of discomfort in luxury as you recover, while making more money per square foot than they would a recovery room, are another example. But be brutally honest about your ideas, such as the price people would pay and investment it requires. Never use the optimistic estimates or you’ll lose hard money you could have invested in other, successful ideas or smaller ideas that would boost the productivity, quality or scalability of your operation. If the idea isn’t good enough, don’t continue to focus on it. Industry guru W. Edwards Deming said that many businesses fail when they put their best people on failing projects to keep it alive, when the most successful businesses put their best people on taking good ideas to great heights. Instead of trying to make a decent idea into a great product, move on to the other ideas and run the same market tests and analysis.
The Recipe for Success
Timo Schmidt, co-founder of Gousto, says his personal recipe for success was thinking about how to make great home cooked meals without all the work they usually require. You have to pick a recipe, find the ingredients, try to make the meal and clean up what is usually a lot of food waste. Schmidt thought that if he could come up with a simpler solution that was convenient, the result would be amazing. He started Gousto with James Carter in 2012. Customers go to a website, pick the recipes they want and order the pre-measured ingredients. There’s no food waste, no time spent hunting for that particular spice in the store, no wondering which item on the shelf is the one the recipe calls for. They received customer feedback and started testing recipes in market stalls. You must test an idea like this so you don’t invest resources in something customers don’t want. This is why Gousto still obsesses on customer feedback, such as improving existing recipes and identifying new products to add. Does this recipe for success work? The company in less than four years was scaled up to more than 200 employees, selling millions of meal kits a year and has twenty million dollars in investment.
And all it took was a great idea combined with customer feedback and further refinement to make it an amazing success.

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