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How to Brainstorm Brilliant Ideas By Yourself

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

Most mornings I make a very strong cup of coffee.

A 4 shot espresso to be precise.

Standard practice for me.

I need something to kickstart my brain!  

Then I take my steaming mug into the home office which Heloise and I had renovated in what used to be an old disused garage at the rear of our house.

Anyway, I sit down, put on some meditative music on Spotify at a lowish volume, then fire up the Apple Mac.

Then I begin to work.

Hours pass…. 

I don’t talk to anyone or do anything other than work and take plenty of breaks, in which I flit through books, walk around and crank up a few weird electronic music tracks that I’m enjoying.

Now please don’t get out the tiny violins.

Because this isn’t a cry for help.

I’m a writer with 30 years’ experience, so I’m very accustomed to working alone.

For long stretches of time, I hunker down in my office, grappling with a piece of sales copy… or a newsletter article…. or an email like this one. 

It’s fine with me – I enjoy it!

But if things were like that ALL time, it would be hard.

For instance….

How would I know if I was on the right track? 

How would I know if my ideas were any good? 

In fact, how would I come up with good ideas in the first place?

This is why, once a week, my home office becomes a bustling hive, as we bring in our small staff of marketers, designers and copywriters.

Together, we brainstorm ideas for new projects…

We share feedback on works-in-progress…

And we make changes or come up with new angles.

It’s invaluable to get input on what I’m doing from other people. 

But here’s the thing: 

What if you don’t have a team of collaborators?

I know that the vast majority of What Really Makes Money readers are either looking for a home income idea or running an existing business completely on their own.  

When they find one, then they have to go through the set up process – again, totally alone. 

Sure, they might have spouses and kids and friends who they might talk to about things.

But they don’t have like-minded people at their beck-and-call, with whom they can brainstorm ideas, or refine and improve existing ideas.

So what then?

Well, if this is your situation, I sympathise. 

That sense of isolation is probably the hardest psychological barrier to overcome.

Without someone to say, “yes that’s great” or, “maybe rethink that bit” or, “what about doing this instead?” then you have to rely on your own judgement.

Which means that sometimes you either give up because too many doubts creep in… 

Or you pursue something that’s flawed, because you didn’t explore every angle properly.

See also  The Secret of Successful ‘LAZY’ People

Now, I can’t wave a magic wand and solve this problem completely.

But I can give you a few strategies that will help you.

How to ‘Solo Storm’ Great Ideas

Brainstorming is normally a group activity…

…but it’s also possible to ‘solo storm’.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Define Your Goal. Start by clearly stating the problem or topic you want to explore and what you want to have at the end of the session. Write it down in a simple, concise statement.

Step 2: Set aside time. You need to schedule in time, just like you would a group meeting. I’d recommend an hour, but splitting it into two half-hour chunks with a ten or twenty minute break in the middle. 

Step 3: Create the Right Environment. Switch off distractions like mobile phones, computer notifications and TVs. Ensure you have all the materials you need, such as paper, pens, a whiteboard, or your computer (although I recommend you stick with pen and paper for this!)

Step 4: Warm-Up Your Brain. Engage in a quick creative activity before you begin, like doodling, playing a musical instrument, or even take a short walk. It gets your mind in the ‘creative thinking’ zone. 

Step 4: Create a Mindmap. Write a word on the centre of a big sheet of paper that represents the concept or problem you’re exploring. Now draw lines outward to create ‘branches’, each one related to a major topic, theme or idea. To reach these major branches, add smaller branches that represent different aspects or sub-themes of that main idea. Continue subdividing into more specific levels of detail as you come up with them.

(TIP: I advise that you don’t cancel or reject any ideas at this stage, just keep adding as many that come into your head.)

Step 4. Use the SCAMPER technique. This can be used to refine your mind map when it’s done – it can also be used to assess and improve existing projects and works-in-progress. 

  • Substitute: What elements of an idea or product can be swapped for others? 
  • Combine: How can you merge two or more ideas to create a new proposition?
  • Adapt: What changes can be made to repurpose an idea for your needs?
  • Modify: What can you alter, in terms of design or functionality, to improve an idea to make it workable?
  • Put to another use: Is there an idea or elements of an idea which could be used in a different context?
  • Eliminate: Which of the ideas could be removed without sacrificing functionality?
  • Reverse: Can you invert or reverse processes or elements of one idea for a different (or better) outcome?

When you go through this structured process, you should find yourself thinking more critically and logically about your project – but also more creatively and imaginatively, too.

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There is also another tool at your disposal…

The AI Brainstorm Technique

You can use an AI tool like ChatGPT (or Claude)  to help you with solo storming, mind-mapping and the SCAMPER technique. 

First, feed AI your goal with a prompt like this:

➡️ Help me brainstorm a new home business idea. I want to explore the possibilities of an information publishing business based around adult ADHD. By the end of the session I want to have a firm idea of a service I could create, a clear target audience and what the content would be.

ChatGPT will immediately list a load of ideas for you, based on the specific goals you have given it. 

I recommend you cut and paste Chat GPTs answer onto a word document, or similar.

Now take each of these starter ideas and probe deeper by asking ChatGPT to elaborate on them or come up with more angles, niches and alternatives.

For example, 

➡️ Expand on idea 3, adding potential features and user benefits.

Or 

➡️  Give me 10 more ideas/angles for [IDEA].

➡️  Drill down into more niches for [IDEA].

➡️  I need 5 more alternatives for [IDEA].

As you go along, cut and paste the new answers into the document you already have on a word document.

This way, you’ll keep expanding it, adding more and more detail.

ChatGPT can also help you carry out your SCAMPER process using prompts like these:

➡️ How can I modify the second idea using the Substitute method?

➡️  Can you apply the Combine method to ideas 4 and 5?

➡️ How could I adapt idea #1 to fit my [AIM or TARGET AUDIENCE].

➡️ I like [IDEA] but I don’t have the tech skills, how could I Modify it so that it’s workable for me?

➡️ Tell me X more ways that [IDEA] could be put to a different use.

Finally, you can use ChatGPT for a critical assessment of your ideas.

First, give it a set of criteria for what makes an idea viable for you.

➡️ I am looking for an online information business I can run on my own in my spare time, that doesn’t require constant monitoring, which doesn’t require coding tech skills, or skills with graphic design, which I can run on a budget of £50 per week with minimum upfront costs and risk. It needs to be online, digital. Please assess the following ideas for viability, giving me the pros and cons.

Then feed it your brainstormed ideas.

ChatGPT will come up with things like this:

Online Courses

Pros:

  • High Value: Well-structured courses can command higher prices and are often perceived as high value by consumers.
  • Scalability: Like eBooks, once created, they can be sold many times without additional costs.
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Cons:

  • High Initial Time and Skill Investment: Requires significant upfront work to develop comprehensive material and potentially learning management systems.
  • Complexity in Creation: Might require basic technical skills for setting up on platforms (e.g., Teachable, Udemy).

Budget Consideration: Your initial investments might go into platform fees and possibly hiring content experts if needed, but these should remain within your budget constraints.

You could also feed ChatGPT one of your ideas and then get it to run an analysis.

➡️ I want you to give me a critical analysis of my business idea, including feasibility, timescale, profitability, market competition, risks, costs and time requirements. The idea is this: [INSERT IDEA IN DETAIL].

For example:

➡️ I want you to give me a critical analysis of my business idea, including feasibility, timescale, profitability, market competition, risks, costs and time requirements. The idea is this: a membership website for ADHD sufferers that gives them a monthly practical toolkit of advice, techniques and strategies for planning, focus, productivity, personal life management, relationships, mental wellbeing and physical health. It comes with a private Facebook group and a weekly email newsletter.

ChatGPT will then provide your analysis, like this….

Technical Feasibility: Creating a membership website with integrated payment systems is technically feasible with modern content management systems like WordPress combined with membership plugins (e.g., MemberPress, Wishlist Member). Setting up a private Facebook group and an email newsletter service (using tools like Mailchimp) is straightforward and user-friendly.

Operational Feasibility: You will need to produce regular, high-quality content that truly benefits ADHD sufferers. This includes staying updated with the latest research and possibly collaborating with experts. The operational feasibility is high, provided you have the dedication and can establish a routine for content creation and community management.

Setup Time: Building the website and initial content library can take 1-3 months depending on the complexity and your personal time commitment. Additional time for marketing and community building should also be considered.

Growth Time: Building a substantial member base will take longer, potentially 6-12 months to start generating significant revenue, depending on your marketing efforts and the initial reception.

And so on… 

The result will be that you come up with a tonne of ideas…. then refine those ideas…. then verify those ideas….

All by yourself!

Sure, it’s not a replacement for a team of co-workers – but it will work well if you follow these steps.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on!

And if you have any other major obstacles or barriers while trying to start a home business on your own, please write in and tell me about them.

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