It all starts with the idea. Google, Warby Parker, Toms and every other brand we've come to know, love and trust were all birthed out of brilliant and disruptive ideas.
The right idea is the starting point to building a thriving business. It's what solves a problem like none other. For instance, Stripe eliminated a major headache, by making it easy for small businesses to accept online payments.
If you want to create the next breakthrough business, try some of these proven strategies to help kick-start bringing your next big idea to fruition:
1. Take the road less traveled
Great ideas are born out of experience. But not the same ones most of your peers have. Steve Jobs, put it this way:
"If you're gonna make connections which are innovative, you have to not have the same bag of experience as everyone else does."
Research bears that out too. One study from Columbia business school showed that fashion companies produced more creative innovations when their creative directors had spent significant time working abroad in cultures vastly different from their own.
The time away forced their minds to problem-solve and view everyday occurrences with different lenses.
To cultivate innovative connections, ditch the well-worn path the masses are taking. Get outside your comfort zone. Shake up your routine. It can change the way you think.
2. Become an idea machine
According to research from UC Davis psychology professor Dean Simonton, the odds of producing a novel idea grow exponentially when you focus on quantity, rather than quality.
To create a sufficient archive of ideas to pull from, make idea generation a habit. Commit yourself to creating a list of at least ten ideas a day.
The practice of logging the ideas will help you produce a growing supply of viable ones that are worth pursuing.
3. Indulge your hobbies
Many entrepreneurs shelve their hobbies to focus all their energy on their business.
But research shows taking time to engage in activities that have nothing to do with your field can have a profound effect on the quality of what you produce.
In his book, Originals, Adam Grant explained how this has played out repeatedly in his research:
"People who started businesses and contributed to patent applications were more likely than their peers to have leisure time hobbies that involved drawing, painting, architecture, sculpture, and literature."
Letting your mind get carried away in other fields will allow your subconscious to go to work. In time, you will unlock innovative solutions to familiar problems.
4. Get moving
Writers have long used walking and other forms of exercise to help fuel their creative juices. Now there's scientific data to back up why this works.
A recent study from Leiden University in the Netherlands showed that participants who exercised four times a week were more creative than those who didn't exercise regularly. Consistent exercise trains your brain to become flexible in finding creative solutions.
Incorporating movement into your regular routine will help you find them.
5. Hang out with dissenters
Many entrepreneurs often keep mum about an idea they are excited about until they can execute it.
But sharing your idea with others, particularly a group of people who can give you constructive feedback can help you strengthen it. That's because they can poke holes in your assumptions, and bring to light other valuable insights you may not have previously considered.
Research from UC Berkeley supports incorporating conflict to improve the ideation process. Once your idea has gone through the fire of being picked apart by others, you can refine and improve it to better position it to succeed.
6. Listen to complainers
A simple way to uncover a strong business idea is to listen to the problems you hear others grumble about.
That's what three-time New York Times best-selling author Tucker Max did with his latest multi-million dollar business, Book-in-a-Box. Max told me the business was inspired by a woman who approached him at a dinner and asked him:
"People have been asking me to write a book for 10 years, and I don't have the time to sit down at a computer for a year, and spend thousands of hours doing this. I have children and a business to run. I can't also write a book. How can I get this book out of my head without having to do that?"
Max and his co-founder latched on to the idea, and have since helped that woman plus hundreds of others publish books by significantly compressing the process for them.
You don't have to wait for your next breakthrough idea to supernaturally come to you. There are a number of actions you can take, including the proven ones noted above that will put you in a better position to come up with something revolutionary.