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How do you come up with ideas?

Edward de Bono saw it decades ago and called it ‘thinking outside the square’ but that was simply observing that the best of solutions to stubborn problems was sometimes coming out of odd-thinking.

Great business owners – let’s call them visionaries – have been doing this kind of non-normal thinking for ages to secure an edge in business.

What drives their success?

At the heart of some business success stories is someone who, out-thinks their rivals by creating an exceptional product or service, dreaming up a ripper marketing campaign, developing the best customer-focused sales team, recruiting government as a key partner, solving a market problem or even coming up with an invention that changes our business and consumer world forever.

High flyers clean up

The Dyson vacuum cleaner with its bag-free vacuum cleaner, and Richard Branson’s innovation into cheaper airfares are classic cases in point. Clearly, thinking – non-normal or what de Bono calls lateral thinking — is critical to substantial business growth.

Innovators think themselves into a position of advantage upon which business growth can ensue. Mistakes can still happen to ruin a potentially great business growth story such as over-borrowing, a severe recession, a rival product or even a change of government policy.

A clever move

The lesson is simple to think about but harder to think through. Out of significant changes lie opportunities for innovations that could net a whole load of money for the entrepreneur with vision. Thinking laterally will show you different ways to do business and it can deliver significant advantages.

Jack the ripper!

Jack Singleton’s punt to secure the 1300 business, is a case of multiple innovations.

Singleton battled government departments, a phone system with keypads that were not uniform, and a little thing called money to make his business happen.

Not only did he see things and think outside the square, his clients, who can see this as an ideal way to achieve market cut-through and to leave an unforgettable phone number in potential customers’ heads, are also innovators.

Another simple innovation is a message-on-hold service.

Basically, a good on hold message should sum up what your business has done over the years and be a clear statement of the services or products that your business provides.

They love it!

Importantly, the quality of the production will keep the message compelling to listen to and, should keep the person on hold wanting to stay there to hear the entire message!

Be alert to innovations

When you don’t market your business effectively you pass up opportunities – very cheap opportunities – to market to your customer base. Always look outside the square to market better.

Getting rid of the rubbish

One business has combined a number of innovations to create a business that people will find it hard to forget. The company is called 1300 RUBBISH and after kicking off in Sydney, it’s now moving into Melbourne and they’ve hired a PR firm – a fundamental marketing innovation.

Sorting through tasks

The business itself is testimony to innovation and ‘out there’ thinking by the founders. It has been described as a virtual rubbish business as the owners don’t touch rubbish. 1300 RUBBISH simply markets and administers the business while franchisee truck owners do all of the dirty and heavy work.

What a great piece of thinking to take away the hard work for truck blokes – marketing and back office work – while also taking away the physical work for the brain workers at head office.

Outside the bin!

This is the great dividend when someone with the right skills works on the business while others who are appropriately skilled work in the business. It’s a clean solution for a dirty business and it comes from outside the square.

Any tips?

Allocate time during your busy week to think of ways of doing business better. Go to a quiet place and let your thoughts run free. You’ll be surprised how many clever ideas pop into your head. One of them could be a real ripper!

Published on: Thursday, June 18, 2009

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