We've all heard the quote, "ideas are a dime a dozen." When it comes to building a successful company, sometimes you need all the ideas you can get, but over the years we've seen companies struggle to come up with ideas that make the business thrive. Why? Let's look at a few possibilities.
Business must remain open-minded. Of course it's important to have perspective in life, but it's also necessary to view problems from different angles. Many businesses drive a single perspective to stay focused on the mission at the expense of overlooking ideas that are filled with potential. Always try to look at an issue with a critical eye and from several angles to make sure you're not missing a different approach that may yield the results you're looking for. Nokia is a great example of this— it started as a rubber company and eventually got into electronics in 1960.
Company culture must support risk-taking. Your team needs to know it's okay to fail, as long as you learn from your mistakes. In fact, risk-taking should be rewarded by providing more opportunity. Be sure your team also knows that ideas are welcome from the bottom up, so everyone feels their input will be heard and valued. Pixar is a great example of this— despite hundred million dollar investments, it continues to "bet on talent".
Always look for where there's room for improvement. Some companies tend to coast along and keep doing the same things the same way all the time. Fair enough. After all, it's what helped the business grow. Be on the lookout, though, for ways you can improve what you know already works. Now, we're not suggesting single-product companies chuck everything and start over creating a new product— especially when most of the staff was hired to maintain the first product. For a business to thrive, however, you've got to keep looking for ways to polish your product or you'll stagnate. Apple is a great example of this— the iPod has gone through iteration after iteration.
Sometimes different is better. It's not always necessary— or desirable— to start over from near scratch. Sometimes you just need to go in a different direction or seek a different path. Knowing when to innovate versus just doing something completely new is tough. Twitter is a great example of this— It was born out of Odeo during a brainstorming session.
These are but a few of the reasons companies struggle to come up with ideas that will ultimately help their business grow, and we're sure you can think of a few others. As long as business owners and managers keep their eyes open for new opportunities and challenge the current thinking, the new ideas will continue to help their businesses thrive.