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The Alternative Board Blog

Genius? Where do Inspiration and Great Ideas Come From?

May. 6, 2013 | Posted by The Alternative Board

The Wall Street Journal published a story in their Small Business Report titled How to Come Up With a Great Idea. There is no cookbook formula to this, however the writer took an interesting approach in asking prominent business experts & entrepreneurs where inspiration comes from. Here are some of the ideas that jumped out:

  • If you think you're too old to start a business, twice as many successful entrepreneurs are aged over 50 as under 25, and twice as many over 60 than under 20.
  • Make a note whenever you encounter a service of a customer experience that frustrates you. As one of the experts commented, ask yourself if there's a better way.
  • There were many comments about seeking inspiration from indirect sources. Follow the arts, research other industries and talk to people you would not normally approach.
  • Find an idea to make the world a better place. (<Click to tweet this!) Think big.
  • Listen to customers & to front-line employees.
  • One of my favorites is to pay attention to history. Folks in the 1950s & 60s went overboard with instant coffee and TV dinners. Starbucks & Whole Foods looked back to a better experience. And it may not be profitable, but I'd love to have a domestic flying experience where I didn't feel like one of the cattle.
  • And to add one of my own ideas to this, look to your data. As I wrote in an earlier blog, there's gold in Big Data. 

Hopefully your idea will work out successfully. But if it doesn't, as Andy Rachleff of Stanford advises: Make sure you can fail fast and cheaply.

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Of course, the idea is only part of the mix. As Thomas Edison said, genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahnenam, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow would probably modify that to something like "success is 1/3 inspiration, 1/3 perspiration, and 1/3 Good Luck." In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahnenam, a psychologist who specializes in decision making and behavioral economics, utilizes probability extensively in his research. He concludes there is just too much evidence to indicate that plain old luck has a great deal to do with success.

The WSJ also ran an on-line survey on what entrepreneurs do differently. They concluded that entrepreneurs agree with the following statements more than everyone else.

  • If I have to stop pursuing a goal in my life, I find it difficult stop trying to achieve it; I can't let it go.
  • Past failure in entrepreneurial endeavors increases the chance that a new business will success. 

Entrepreneurs are a tenacious and optimistic lot.

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Written by The Alternative Board

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