Have you ever chased a duck on a lawn mower?
Let me explain. For the last decade I have owned a property maintenance business, so I cut a lot of grass. A lot. I have spent thousands of hours riding a mower, and every so often, while cutting along a pond bank, some wild ducks will get flustered and start off running away from me. The interesting thing is, though, that they will not bail out back into the water to get away. They will not even turn 90 degrees and take off. For some reason, as long as I keep going straight at them, they keep running straight away.
In an ironic way, this weird duckish behavior reminds me of many business owners. How many of you business people have been running from the same problems for years? You have been fighting the same battles, fixing the same problems, putting out the same fires, and are still running. Could it be that you just need to choose a different direction and waddle away?
People have a bad habit of running in the same grooves over time without ever thinking there can be a better way to do things. Kinda like ducks. But there are better ways. We just need a simple change of direction.
I think idea generation is one of the most unpracticed skills in business today. It is too easy to believe that there is a special class of “creative” people who just have a knack for this, and that we have to wait for them to tell us what the next big thing is.
Truth be told, these people don’t have some inherent superpowers; they just practice different ways of thinking than most. And those ways of thinking can be learned and practiced by you.
In his helpful and clever book, Disrupt, Luke Williams describes the process through which creative people work to break old patterns of thinking and change businesses, sometimes entire industries.
I would like to give you two very practical ways you can break old business patterns and generate some new ideas for your enterprise:
Do you remember those first PDA’s and Blackberry devices? They had a thousand buttons, all with tiny lettering. Dreadful. So what did the pattern breakers at Apple do when they created the first Smartphone? Gave it one button. Just one, and it changed everything. That’s how scaling works. Take an idea or a business paradigm and run it up and down the scale, just to see if any new ideas pop out.
Think back to the ‘ol days when video rental shops dotted the landscape. You had to leave your home, choose a movie, pay for it, take it home, watch it, and return it before the due date (be kind and rewind) or face penalties. That was the video rental world. So, what would happen if we simply reversed every bit of that pattern? What if you stayed home and the movies came to you, for one flat fee? What if there were no late fees? You get it. One good reversal and Netflix was born.
Creating new business ideas is not as mysterious as we sometimes think. It is doable and fun. And it can be wildly profitable. Try this out, just for kicks; you never know what you might come up with.
We can all bring new ideas into being. We just have to be brave enough to go a different direction than the lawn mower.