How do I generate a great idea for a start-up?

This week’s Secret Soloist is answered by innovation coach Yvonne Adele.


An idea is the connection of two seemingly unrelated things.


If you think back to the last great idea you had, then spent a little bit of time working out how you got it, you’ll find that you had a particular challenge floating around in your head.


As you went about your business, tasting things, touching, hearing, smelling, watching things, you were exposing yourself to new experiences.


One of those experiences sparked your thinking and gave you an idea to solve that challenge.


So the best way to get fresh ideas is to continually find ways to experience new things.


Choose just three of these 10 suggestions to help spark a fresh idea to solve any start-up challenge you’re working on.


1. Eat something that you’ve never tried before. Ask people, where was the last place they went out for dinner? When you hear of a restaurant that’s not your normal choice, make a plan to go there and ask that person out with you.


2. Change the radio station or iPod genre for one whole day. Two if you’re brave.


3. Next time you’re at the newsagent, especially at the airport (because you’re about to be trapped with your new purchase for a couple of hours in the air), choose a magazine totally opposite to the one you normally get. If you go for OK!, choose V8 SuperCars. If you go for House and Garden, choose Time.

4. Find a type of live event you’ve never been to and go. By yourself if you have to. If you’ve never been to a kids’ movie, borrow a kid and go. If you’ve never been to the ballet, borrow an adult and go.


5. Try implementing a “nude food day” at work. Set a date and ask everyone to join in. The idea is to create as little rubbish as possible for that day. No packaging, wrapping or non-recyclable waste allowed.


6. Go to and click on the fourth video you see. Watch it even if it isn’t your area of interest. You will learn something.


7. Ask a buddy to bring in a book for you to read – something they enjoyed but that they don’t think you’d automatically choose for yourself. Commit to read at least half of it within seven days and finish it within 14.


8. Set aside a time to go out for lunch within seven days. The catch is: If you’re sitting in a multi-story building, ask the person who sits directly above or below you on a different floor to come to lunch with you.


If you work alone or in a small team, ask someone over email who you haven’t lunched with in over a year or at all. Ask your lunch partner to bring one business challenge with them and you’ll bring yours – you’ll give each other “fresh eyes” on the problem.


9. Whatever your usual exercise routine is, do it in reverse. Walk around the block in the opposite direction. Start your gym routine with what you normally finish with. If you don’t exercise, simply commit to going for a 30 minute walk around your area.


10. When someone in a shop asks, “How are you?” reply, “Great thank you. And you?” and actually listen for their answer – engage them in at least another sentence before going back onto auto pilot.


Let us know how you get on. Remember, only three of these 10 suggestions are needed in order to give you all the ammo you need to get a fresh idea.


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