Gather round, everyone. It’s time to have “The Talk.”
You know the one I mean. You’ve started asking lots of questions and I can tell you’re ready for it, so make yourselves comfortable and let’s go over the basics.
Because if you’re in business, you need to know about this. It’s crucial to your success. Mastering this technique will put a spring in your step, and bring new life to your ventures.
Plus, it’s actually pretty fun.
Birds do it, bees do it
The birds and the bees do this naturally, and we can, too. It’s called cross-pollination.
They fly from one flower to another, or one tree to the next, picking up bits of one plant and carrying it to the other.
The plant on the receiving end of this pollination is hardier and able to reproduce with greater variety. It meets environmental challenges more successfully because it’s genetically diverse.
In the same way, when you cross-pollinate ideas, you make your business stronger. You’ll be better able to weather the difficulties that every business and brand has to face to survive.
Keeping your eyes open to sources for ideas is the first step. Having a system for gathering and using these ideas is important, too. Really great ideas can be found where you least expect them.
Get started here
First, the obvious sources. Cross-pollinate your business with innovative new ideas by:
- Reading books, magazines and websites outside your field.
- Talking to people in different industries. Find out what their challenges are and how they’ve met them. Ask yourself how you can apply their solutions to your own business.
- Learning from your customers. Design thinking is a concept that is built around staying in close touch with your customers’ needs, and building your products and services around meeting them.
Look for love in all the wrong places
You can find great new ideas in places you never expected, too.
- Get inspiration from your fiercest competition. Your competitors are fighting the same battles you are. What are they doing that you can learn from? How have they solved the same challenges you face? What techniques do they use to succeed? What are some problems they don’t solve particularly well, where you could fill in the gap?
- Learn from your own failures. The School of Hard Knocks can teach you more than anything else. Look back on your projects and learn from what went wrong, so that you can get it right the next time.
Keep the innovative ideas flowing
Finally, it’s easier to keep the new ideas flowing in to your business if you have a structure in place that allows cross-pollination to happen on a regular basis. Here are some techniques:
- Create an informal Board of Directors.. Gather a group of 3-5 people who are willing to support your efforts. Meet with them in person or by phone at least four times a year. Update them on your goals, the progress you’re making, and your struggles. Let the ideas flow, and take good notes.
- Join a Mastermind group. Many groups meet monthly, some more often. Some Chamber of Commerce organizations coordinate them, but you can also find virtual Mastermind groups with a quick web search. The group supports each member, so you’ll both offer and receive encouragement and ideas.
- Join a virtual private community. Sites like Third Tribe are great places to connect with like-minded people and to generate exciting new business ideas.
- Consider working with a coach. Because business coaches speak to many different clients, they’ll naturally cross pollinate your conversations with ideas they’ve picked up from helping other people.
Small business, big ideas
We all want a more resilient business, and a lot of Copyblogger readers have very small organizations. Letting ideas flow freely between your small-scale operation and the larger world will build a business that withstands the challenges of the marketplace.
How about you? Are you gathering and applying ideas from all over? Buzz down to the comments and cross-pollinate them with some thoughts of your own.
About the Author: Pamela Wilson has been in the same Mastermind group since 2004. She cross pollinates her Big Brand System site with ideas to help small businesses use the power of design to grow.