Ideation refers to the process of developing and conveying prescriptive ideas to others. It describes the sequence of thoughts, from the original concept to implementation. When you drill down on what this means for startups, it means identifying big problems that are ripe for disruption. It entails a process of discovery designed to lead towards the creation of innovative, dynamic, and impactful enterprises.
I want to share with you the building blocks of the ideation process:
Choosing the right partners
Serial startup entrepreneurs know all too well that the ideation stage is hardly all theoretical. The aspect of generating an idea is merely the starting point. That idea would need to be developed and transformed into a promising opportunity through market research, competitive analysis, and dynamic business modeling.
Step 1: Brainstorm
One core element that can help make the ideation process more efficient is the gathering of minds with different sets of experience and expertise. This includes core values around work-life balance, the type of product you want to invest in, how to manage the team and etc… Try to align on goals and expectations. Realistically speaking, it wouldn’t be possible to agree on every element of each of those aspects, but the goal is for everyone to not strongly disagree on anything worthwhile. This is also a great way to find out how good of a negotiator (read: leader) you really are. Step 1 is a great time to find out before you’ve invested too deep.
It would also be a good idea to try out some exercises with prospective co-founders or team members to get a better sense of how well you all would work together. As the saying goes, you never truly know someone until you live with them. This can be tested by putting actual, realistic business tasks into play. Ideally, these tasks would have a goal, a beginning, and an end that needs to be achieved.
Aim to gain consensus on the technology used, exit expectations, launch timelines, and (most important of them all) the problems your idea is supposed to solve.
Pro Tip: even if you disagree, listen and let people finish. It’s very easy for you to have misunderstood and this will help you build a longer-term business relationship with respect.
Objectively Qualify via Validation
There is always the possibility that the people who are quick to offer compliments are just being polite. Authentic positive feedback can be identified when it’s followed up with introductions and connections to potential design partners, advisors, partners, and investors. Naturally, no one would waste their colleagues’ time if they didn’t truly believe in the concept and pitch.
Understand that need does not equal demand
During the validation phase, there needs to be a clear understanding of the need for your future product, because in the eyes of investors and potential clients, there is a big difference between need and demand. A need doesn’t necessarily represent a priority with a budget, but demand does.
While gaining the understanding of where your idea lies on the spectrum of need and demand, it would also be beneficial to have an answer to the question of, “Why now?” Proficient knowledge of macro and micro trends will prove to be extremely useful here.
All in all, the key to a successful ideation stage is the same as most other elements of running a business. It all boils down to passion, dedication and the willingness to make adjustments along the way to maintain a unique edge.
Pro Tip: ALWAYS be looking out for reasons to pivot and improve. Qualify them before communicating the pivot. Avoid knee jerk reactions or you’re going to be leading a lot of people who will think the leader is lost and guessing.