How Entrepreneurs Come Up With New Ideas

Where do ideas come from?

One aspect of entrepreneurship and new product development that can be overwhelming is the thought that any new product or idea must be dramatically different from everything else out there. Actually, small changes can create a totally different product and lead to an entrepreneurial venture. So try this:  Develop a Chindogu.

From Urban Dictionary: 1. From Japanese, literally ””accessory of a weird way”. It is a totally useless invention that seems to be “useful” but in reality it isn’t. It is usually done as an art form.

I once took an innovation course (thanks, Professor Barry Bayus!) where I had to develop my own Chindogu. Mine was a cup holder attached to a life jacket. I Life Jacket Cup Holderstarted by thinking about sports that I do and the items I use while doing these sports. Mainly I was thinking about sailing, one of my passions, and that I like to drink a canned beverage while out on the water. I sail small boats generally so I don’t have my hands free to hold one. Solution? A cup holder on my life jacket, the inspiration from seeing  the Chindogu example of the man’s suit soda holder.* As with any Chindogu, though, my invention had problems that made it impossible to use. The first is that in using my arms to sail the boat, the can holder will totally get in the way. The second one is that each time I might lean over to do something in the boat, or if I lean back to help balance the boat, I could end up spilling the can’s contents all over myself and the boat. Hence what seems like a great idea at first is actually useless. Of course, as a Chindogu, that was the point. Still, my final design came from modifications and combinations of concepts and ideas with which I was already familiar.

How are Chindogus and entrepreneurship related?

Most new ideas are not thought up out of thin air, and neither are entrepreneurial ventures. The LED lighting company I started with a few colleagues wasn’t a huge leap into the unknown. We had, among the four of us, over 70 years of experience in the necessary technologies. We had each worked at least 10 years in related industries, a couple of us over 25 years. We knew the industry and the markets and saw an unmet need that we could fill. Hence the development of our product idea and our entry into entrepreneurship. The same story comes up repeatedly when learning about how founders arrive at idea that becomes the core of their new ventures. Some great ways to develop innovations comes from Professor Balasubramanian of UNC Kenan-Flagler. While his innovation frameworks are mainly targeted at larger companies, they are also applicable and certainly relevant to entrepreneurs thinking about their next ”best thing.”

New ideas come from the information we already have in our heads, mixed with things we may see or hear about, and then blended together into a new vision, direction, or perception that changes our frame of reference and brings us something new. Many ideas will likely flow through our head as we think about the areas of expertise we already have, the key is to realize which ones are worth pursuing.

The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas—and then throw away the bad ones.” –Linus Pauling

I welcome examples you’ve seen of where new ideas have come from, please share in the comments below.


Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter (@SaraPaisner), via email, or contact me.

*click on image of car, and choose soft drink holder

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