Entrepreneurs typically have no shortage of ideas, but this creative strength can quickly become a weakness if the ideas aren't managed well. The constant messages running through a solopreneur's mind might include thoughts like, 'I should get moving on that.' 'What if I miss out on something big?' 'Too many ideas, too little time.' 'I wish I had the money to make this happen, it's such a great idea.' This brain-clutter will bring a truckload of great ideas to a screeching halt before they even get on the road, so let's take a look at how to unload the excess cargo!
Taking a systematic approach isn't always easy for the right-brained, creative solopreneur. But to get these ideas off the ground, that's what we have to do. So whether your idea is about a new product, marketing or other growth or organizational opportunities, here are a few of these tips to move it forward – or take it off the list once and for all.
Get them out of your head and onto paper. Having all of this brilliance trapped in your brain is exhausting – it wants out! Begin by sorting out your ideas; big and small. Categorize and prioritize them based on your needs: Do you need immediate revenue? Do you need to improve your branding? Do you need to get systems into place? Do you need to satisfy client demands? Or do you simply need to have more fun by utilizing your creativity in a new way? Now choose ONE idea (yes, just one) and apply some or all of the following strategies.
Examine and Expand. When your idea is in its initial stages take a curious, no pressure approach. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to find a way to make the idea work, simply ask 'what if' questions.
'What if this idea was in place right now, what would be different because of it?' 'What if I could see this idea as something bigger than it is right now, how would it look?'
Just have fun, exploring the concept like a child might explore a playground. Introducing playfulness can reduce your stress and allow room for further creativity.
Compare your idea or strategy to your vision and mission statements. Is there synergy? Does it really fit in with your long term goals? Does it change anything in a way that you must explore or does it just confuse the picture? Is it too far off the mark or does it fit in seamlessly with the big picture?
Sometimes we get a 'great idea' and being wrapped up in the energy of it all can cause us to lose track of our true vision. Getting sidetracked like this can take you off your path and on a long, bumpy detour. You may or may not end up in the right place!
Apply the S.W.O.T. analysis steps to your idea. Draw a quadrant on a piece of paper or write down the four categories on your mindmap or whiteboard. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.
After examining your concept and listing everything you can think of in each of the four areas, explore your thoughts on the following:
Is there danger of a strength becoming a weakness? Can you convert a weakness to an opportunity? Can weaknesses be minimized or eliminated?
Bringing this information together, to assess the most promising opportunities and the most crucial issues is where you will find the greatest value in a SWOT analysis. Then you can take your idea further or take it off your plate altogether.
Look at latest trends. If you are bringing a new product or service to the market, does it meet your clients' needs in a way that is new, refreshing and creative? Will it stand out or get lost in the chaos? Again, introduce non-threatening, stress-free exploration of your idea to see how you can make it different and/or better from the rest.
Brainstorm with friends and peers. I know I've said this more times than I can count, but solo doesn't mean alone! Don't take it on all by yourself. Ask creative and strategic people to work with you and have fun with it. Remember that you chose to be your own boss because you love the freedom. Being glued to your ideas in a stressful, lonely way doesn't make it a very enjoyable experience!
Here's a fun idea - Go somewhere different to work through your ideas. I love to work in a decadent hotel lobby or a coffee shop or bookstore I've never been to. Somehow, this creates a new level of excitement for my planning and brainstorming and really helps me tap into that playful side. What works for you?
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka