What is this?
While you can have a match between who you are and external trends for many purposes (including general interest, leisure, etc), the opportunity space for venture creation requires at some point that you match these dimensions in the context of value creation. If you don't look at the opportunity space from a value creation perspective, odds are not very likely that a business will come out of it.
Value creation occurs where a need (be it a problem, frustration or a general desire) and a solution find each other. You either look for solutions for a need/problem, or for needs/problems for a certain solution. At this stage, that can be in real abstract or generic terms, like "With our mix of engineering and marketing skills and experience in Africa, we want to contribute to electrification of rural areas in East Africa", but can be more specific like "with our new software platform, we want to help larger companies that do not know how to develop a social media strategy". As you can see, this needs/solution matching leads to a first broadly defined "value proposition", which will come back in later phases.
Fruitful idea generation takes place at the intersection between the internal and the external context. In other words: you are looking for a number of solutions/applications in line with what you spot in the outside world (needs, opportunities, ...) but also with what you want, can do, know and can afford to loose or risk (see "how"). If you are considering an opportunity which is completely disconnected either from the internal or the external context, either you better consider a different idea, or you try to enlarge your team with people that are not as disconnected to the opportunity.
How can you proceed with this? It depends where you start.
- If you(r team) detected a need/problem in the outside world (e.g. via observation or trend spotting), you can brainstorm for solutions and pick out the ones in line with your findings with regard to the internal context. You may also try to find a third party project or solution matching the detected need and co-create.
- If you have a piece of technology or an invention or you are already connected to a third party ideator, you can look for possible applications and pick out those relating well to the internal and external context.
- If you have neither yet, start from the common field of interest/belief or the set of capabilities within the team, find a trend which you all feel connected to, define a problem/need and then develop solutions. You may also choose to find a third party project which you find in line with the context you defined.
Creative Problem Solving
Creative problem solving is a creative technique especially developed to solve problems. It has 6 stages and uses different mindsets. This technique could be of excellent help when you are trying to define a solution, starting from a general trend or problem definition. It can also be used in the other direction, to find applications e.g. for a certain piece of technology.
More info? download this pdf on creative problem solving! The key to turning a potential threat into an opportunity lies in the ability to understand the problem combined with thinking creatively. Therefore this creative problem solving tool was developed and specifically targeted at raising the essential skills of creative problem solving within businesses. The objective behind this tool is to stimulate commercially beneficial outcomes for businesses through the application of entrepreneurial creativity and effective problem solving techniques.
Also, read this manifesto on how to be creative at changethis.com, written by Hugh MacLeod, he is a brand consultant, copywriter and cartoonist.
Heuristics for Problem Solving
How to Solve It (1945) is a small volume by mathematician George Pólya describing methods of problem solving. The book contains a set of heuristics that might help you come up with a lot of solutions for a problem, departing from different angles. Examples are "analogy" (Can you find a problem analogous to your problem and solve that?) and "Decomposing and Recombining" (Can you decompose the problem and "recombine its elements in some new manner"?).
There are many brainstorm techniques. This is one of them as listed under the excellent website with design tools published by IDEO. You can find it here.
Want to know more?
- Build a Better Mousetrap by Ruth Kassinger, also available on Google Books
- Innovation Tournaments, a book Christian Thurwiesh
- "Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small",by I. Ayres, Harvard Business School Press, 2003.
- whynot.net is a forum where peope discuss and rate ideas.