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Coming up with a new business idea can be stressful, but you don't have to pull your hair out -- there are ways to keep your creative juices flowing. (Credit: Unsplash)
Brainstorming for a new business can be difficult, but there are ways to keep your creative juices flowing. (Credit: Unsplash)

I have sat and talked with many women who were tired of their jobs and wanted out or had several hobbies that they thought they could make money from but couldn’t decide which one to choose. They would often hear, “follow your passion” or “find a problem and solve it.”

While sometimes “passion” and “problem” work, there are methods for exploring and generating new ideas. The brainstorming process helps you discover fresh ideas, encourages critical thinking and just flat out gets all the creative ideas out of your head and onto paper.

So, there are a few different techniques that I used with my clients to move them from a cluttered headspace to a clear mind.

[Related: How saying no to big-name cosmetics gave this woman entrepreneur a creative business idea]

1. Mind Mapping

This is one of my favorites. There are many programs online that will help you with the process, but you can absolutely do this with just pencil and paper. You start with a key word, problem or question and then use lines that branch from your subject that are key ideas. Write a keyword on each line and then add ideas that may trigger new thoughts or ideas. Warning! This map could go on forever but it’s okay. Let the ideas flow. I have a client who joked that her mind map looked like an EKG.

2. 3…3…3

I have used this with adults and youth, and it is a lot of fun. Start with jotting down three hobbies and three skills. Create a table with your three hobbies on each individual row and the skills across the top on the columns. Think about what type of ideas you can create based on your hobbies and skills listed. For example, your hobbies may be sewing, writing and yoga and your skills are organization, business acumen and communication. You could start a business being a Yoga consultant, designing Yoga clothes or writing a book on Yoga techniques. You should have at least 3 ideas from this brainstorming technique.

[Related: The best CEOs embrace this leadership skill]

3. IF

This technique is similar to just solving a problem. Again, start with a sheet of paper and pencil and respond to the following statements:

It would be great if:

Things would be easier if:

What I can do about it is:

List at least 6-8 “IFs” and see how many ideas you can create in the “What I can do about it is” section.

4. Idea Funnel

Start with a general topic and narrow it to a one-sentence concept. Visually this looks like an upside-down triangle or a funnel. The steps you should follow are this:

  • write down an idea
  • narrow it down
  • tighten it up
  • make it clear
  • state the facts
  • come up with a one-sentence concept

An example of this would be

  • a restaurant
  • a vegan restaurant
  • a vegan fast food restaurant
  • a vegan fast service restaurant
  • a vegan fast service restaurant serving breakfast and lunch
  • a vegan fast service restaurant serving breakfast and lunch for customers on the go.

[Related: The 1 must-have item for letting investors know your idea is the big one]

5. Reverse the Storm

This sounds really crazy, but it actually works in coming up with creative ideas. Start by listing problems. Instead of trying to come up with ideas for solutions, reverse this process and think about ways to cause the problem or make it worse. Once you have a list, then spend time reversing each of those ideas. Don’t be analytical or judgmental. Just let the ideas flow.

6. Bounce

This technique is a favorite of mine if there are at least three people involved. One person needs to be the scriber. You start with a keyword and the person next to you says the next word that comes to mind. It then goes back to the next person and you continue to bounce ideas off of each other. The scriber is writing the words down and after about five minutes, pause and view the words written to see if a business idea has been created. If not, restart the session with the word that you left off with OR use one of the words scribed to start a new brainstorming session.

The bottom line with business brainstorming is that you have fun with it. There are no bad ideas in brainstorming. Every thought can lead to a brilliant idea if you take your time and keep challenging yourself. Of course, you want an idea that can be monetized but many profitable ideas started from a crazy idea written on a napkin. Start throwing out your ideas and see what sticks.

Stacey Banks Houston is the Founder of Banks Int’l Group and Chief Launch Coach of RSVP Consultants. She has committed herself to the launch and growth of entrepreneurs over the last 23 years. Stacey is the author of The Passion Plan: Journaling Your Business from Passion to Position to Profit and Seasons of Wholiness: Inspiration for the Seasons in a Woman’s Life. For more information, visit www.staceybankshouston.com.

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