Concept Generation: Build a Process and Make it a Habit

by | Product

Immersion. Capture. Share. That’s what concept generation is all about. When we talk about concept generation, we’re referring to the process of generating new startup or company ideas. What often gets overlooked in the generation process is habit formation.

Most of us struggle to come up with actionable ideas, and most companies fail to deliver creativity because they lack a strategy for sparking ideation. These three steps can help your processes grow from struggling to thriving. Let’s dive in a little deeper.

Immersion. Capture. Share.

Immersion

Immersion is an essential piece of the ideation process. It’s tough to generate ideas from things you haven’t interacted with extensively. It’s like trying to speak a language you’ve never been exposed to before. We learn a new language or skill the fastest by immersing ourselves in it. When it’s all around you, things start to stick, and then you’re able to start speaking it.

Similarly, you can train yourself to become an idea generator for a particular problem area. Immerse yourself in a focus area or industry, then ask: what does the future state of this space look like?

Don’t worry about needing to become an expert right off the bat–or even at all. In many cases, the best ideas come from people who aren’t subject matter experts themselves. For example, someone who works in finance every day is very likely to become accustomed to their processes and ways of doing things, making it harder to think outside the box and come up with new ideas.

On the other hand, an outsider who is unfamiliar with the inner workings but has a discovery and growth mindset can talk to individuals in the space. They can learn how they do things, understand what their day-to-day looks like, and begin visualizing an ideal future state for that space.

Capture

Write down your ideas. 

Here’s a sample workflow as an example. Let’s say you have a recurring team meeting on Tuesdays, and part of that time is dedicated to idea-sharing. Then, from Wednesday to Monday, you can immerse yourself in the problems you run into. This could be through the content you’re consuming or during conversations–but make sure to write it all down. 

Like Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Everything is already out there, and your ideas and concepts are just connecting the dots. You can only consume it in practical ways such as through media, podcasts, conversations, or real-world experience. Then you can start to see the connections when you actively capture them by writing them down and allowing your brain to create feedback loops.

Share

That brings us to a critical step: sharing. Talking with others about your ideas helps you flesh them out. When you bring other perspectives and thoughts together, it leads to other questions, which in turn lead to new discoveries.

Consider teachers, for example. They know their subject so well because they discuss it frequently and are constantly having their assumptions challenged by new questions and opinions. Similarly, when you brain-dump your ideas, allowing others to challenge your assumptions, you’re forced to think deeper about those assumptions.

Many people struggle with this piece. They might be wondering if their idea is bad or if others will think it’s stupid or useless. It’s easy to talk ourselves out of things, but the problem is that when you do, you’re killing your idea before it has even had a chance to grow.

If you find yourself in this or a similar loop, keep in mind that:

  • Ideas evolve, and these discoveries help you turn an okay idea into a great one.
  • To develop the muscle and become a concept generation machine, you need to train it.

Here at HVL, our team has a group frustration list. The reason for the list isn’t wanting to remove all of them. Instead, we want to train the muscle and build a habit of acknowledging the frustrations we encounter every day. The list gives everyone a place to share them with others, and challenge each other’s assumptions about them through different perspectives.

Closing Thoughts

In essence, the critical piece of this puzzle is having enough knowledge absorption and immersion to imagine and build a future state. After questioning your assumptions, go back and ask yourself:  if your ideal world exists, what would have to happen?
Follow up on your new ideas and concepts with idea validation. Put them in front of real individuals who are experiencing the problem and see what they have to say about them. Sharing will always lead to new questions, which can turn into new discoveries that help you refine your idea.

Remember that ideas are works in progress and grow over time, so don't let the fear of a bad idea deter you from coming up with a great one.

For tailored guidance on developing these habits and a variety of other startup topics, check out our HVL office hours program.