One of the abiding mysteries of entrepreneurship is where the initial impulses for ideas come from. Sometimes it seems that good ideas just appear out of the blue, but if you drill down a little deeper there’s usually some context, some prelude of ideas or observations that set up that “ah ha!” moment. Very few things literally materialize out of thin air.
If that’s true, then are there things we can be mindful of that might help “prime the pump” of ideation? Indeed there are, and one of them is quite simple: be on the lookout for ways in which disparate interests overlap to create a new opportunity.
Take this one: it might not appear that craft beer and bird-watching have anything in common, and yet there are several ventures based on just such a combination. And they’re beginning to…take off. Check out this article on the subject: Loons and Lager: Birders & Brewers Form New Flock
There are two important lessons to glean from this story:
1) Entrepreneurs keep their eyes open for the novel, the slightly quirky — because sometimes that’s where the best opportunities lie. In the case of Maine’s “Birds on Tap Roadtrip,” the folks who were coordinating the birding events noted that many of their members were also into beer. The idea of bringing beer along for their outings seemed like a natural progression. It might appear to the outsider to be a rather random combination, but when you get down inside the initial impulse it actually seems quite logical.
2) Entrepreneurs think about their customers first. You’ll note that these events take different forms in different parts of the country. That’s because savvy entrepreneurs think about how the product/service they’re thinking about best serves the customers they hope to reach. In LA, it’s observing birds in an urban landscape. In New England, it’s seasonal outings to wilderness areas. In each case, the events are constructed with the sensibilities of the participants — not the agenda of the organizers.
I’ll often have music students wonder how on earth they’ll come up with an idea for their project in my entrepreneurship class. One of the things I tell them is to think about areas of interest they have outside of music: yoga, cooking, fashion, nature, sports. And in an amazing number of cases, novel ideas emerge from these unique combinations. This is particularly important in the arts where, in addition to creating something that serves the needs of customers, the artist needs to have an authentic artistic expression that is uniquely there’s. For me, one such combination is my background in science/geology and my compositional work. What might your creative combination be?