How to Unlock Winning Ideas For Your Business
Every business needs ideas.
But finding successful ones can be a challenge.
Dr Jo North has built two businesses to help people unlock their creativity. Discover fresh ideas. And understand how their own mind works.
In this Professional Profile, I ask Jo how she helps people learn new ways to think.
The Inspiration for an Ideas Business
What led her to start her own business?
“What fascinates me is why some people and businesses are more successful than others.”
“And why are some people more entrepreneurial at work?”
Jo added, “During my career, I’ve always used innovation, growth and fresh thinking. So I wanted to get out there and help more businesses do this.”
Creativity and innovation are central to Jo’s business. So I asked her what she’s learnt about the birth of new ideas.
“Ideas are our competitive currency. They’re what make us and our businesses different from anybody else or any other business out there.”
“Look at the roots of a successful business. It all comes down to the quality of their ideas and how well they’re implemented.”
“And to have more and better ideas, you have to remember that ideas come from the stuff in our heads. So if we always do the same things, we will always get the same thinking out.”
Jo went on to share how people create their best business ideas.
“Ideas happen when two or more thoughts come together for the very first time.”
“It’s essential to stretch our minds, challenge our thinking and have new experiences. Because our brain learns to form new neural connections more effectively and intuitively. With the result that we see creative business opportunities.”
“It’s that thing where somebody comes up with a business idea, and you think, “Well, that’s obvious. Why didn’t anybody else think of that?””
“The information is in there, but the neural connection hasn’t happened to create the idea.”
3 Simple Tips to Improve Your Creativity
The heart of Jo’s work is to help other businesses improve their creativity. So I asked her to share a few tips on how to generate new ideas for your business:
1) Get More Sleep
“I’m going to sound like your mum, but get more sleep,” said Jo.
“We know for sure that a good night’s sleep and regular sleep helps us be more creative the day after. I’m sorry if that sounds boring. But, we are a sleep-deprived nation.”
“Many of us work too hard and only get a few hours a night.”
2) Practice Thinking in New Ways
Jo explained the problems with the mental exercises that some people use.
“You see people on the train doing Sudoku and ‘brain-training’ games. But a lot of these focus on logical reasoning, not creativity.”
Instead, Jo uses exercises which give your brain the chance to build new pathways.
“For instance, take a simple pencil. And think about the other ways you can use the pencil:
- An ear cleaner
- A cane for tap dancing
- Or maybe a small umbrella stand for a dolls’ house
When you think about alternative uses for everyday objects, even for a minute every day, you create new connections in your brain.”
Another exercise Jo suggests is left-handed mirror writing.
“You write with your left hand, and you go backwards from right to left. Because the left side of the body corresponds with the right side of the brain, this forces the brain to make new connections.”
“Even if you’re left-handed, you can still do it with the left hand.”
In fact, a well-known mirror-writer was Leonardo Da Vinci.
“Da Vinci wrote lots of notes to be read in a mirror. A good book that explores this idea is The Power of the Other Hand by Lucia Capacchione. I’d recommend a read.”
3) Take a Break to Let Your Brain Process
Jo’s last tip is to relax and switch off.
“Read through the information you’re working on, think it over and then forget about it. Do something else instead.”
“You know the old expression, sleep on it? We know from neural science that this works.”
“That’s why we’re more creative when we mow the lawn, take a shower or have a run. Because our frontal lobes are relaxed.”
“The brain is sorting it out in the background.”
Jo applies this idea to her workshops and the Idea Time programme.
“People do activities with different creative techniques. They’ll be hands-on with pen and paper because that relaxes people. Rather than tip-tapping away on a screen.”
“There’s also mind mapping. And going through today’s papers to cut out the headlines relevant to your business to get ideas.”
How to Create Ideas Like Magic
Creativity is a blend of theory and practice for Jo.
She began her business in 2011 when she was deputy managing director for East Coast Trains. Before that she’d been a senior director with Northern Rail and First Group.
But the common theme was a love of learning and innovation.
Alongside her business career, Jo took a route into academia. With an MBA from the Open University and then with a PhD in innovation from the University of York.
The Big Bang Partnership
Jo used her business and academic experience to create The Big Bang Partnership.
And she’s not looked back.
“I love seeing people and their businesses achieve more than they ever thought possible. That’s the big reward that I get. Especially when they surprise themselves.”
“The Big Bang is bespoke so I work with clients in person. I’ll design and run your event. Deliver one-to-one coaching. Or come and create your strategy with you and for you.”
“A lot of what I do is creative. I help people have fresh ideas and understand how their own mind works. In fact, several different clients have said: “You’re like a magician.” Because of how I facilitate and help people to find their own new ideas.”
Now Jo works with corporate businesses as well as start-ups.
“The underlying connection is they want to be bigger, better or different. And my aim is to help people achieve their aspirations. What I call their big, hairy, audacious goals. In a way that’s good for them and good for their business.”
“People get results in a focused, time-efficient way. Because I bring together innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership.”
“Over the last 12 months, I’ve worked with clients in utilities, financial services, marine, education, digital and many others. While the industries are different, they need the same mindset, commitment and momentum.”
Idea Time Membership
Jo then launched Idea Time in 2017. And this has now evolved into the Idea Time Membership.
“The idea was to complement the bespoke work with clients. It’s a way to reach new people and make myself accessible to them in an affordable way.”
It helps people achieve their goals through online learning and coaching.
Jo explained that people “also learn about themselves. How to influence the creativity of the people around them. And how to make their ideas happen more effectively.”
“People can have regular access to me. Because I’m in the membership group to answer questions, post and talk to people every day. This is all part of your membership for £42 a month or £378 a year.”
A key tool in Idea Time is the innovation roadmap scorecard.
“This lets you assess where you are against the key areas of ideas, focus, resources, skill, leadership and mindset. Then I can help direct you towards the resources in the membership that’ll most help you.”
“There’s a large amount of video content that is exclusive for members only. But it’s a bit like having Netflix. You don’t watch everything all in one go. It’s about picking where you want to start and knowing your way around.”
A New Way of Thinking for a New Business
As the Idea Time Membership is an online business I was interested to hear about Jo’s approach to marketing.
“With the Big Bang Partnership, I don’t really do any proactive marketing. Because clients have such a close one-to-one relationship my work comes from referrals. I do a great piece of work and somebody will recommend me.”
“But in the online world, the challenge is to promote yourself and engage with clients when they don’t meet you. To create ways for them to know, like and trust you.”
“What’s more, the internet is a noisy space. And there are a lot of people peddling stuff that isn’t that good. Sure, they’ve got pretty pictures on Instagram – shots of coffees and Lamborghinis. But do they have the experience and credibility to back up what they’re selling?”
Jo shared some of the methods she uses to attract people to the membership.
“I’m learning the techniques that suit the online world. So I’ve begun vlogging and I’m going to start a podcast. Also, I’ve created an ebook to be the lead magnet for my email funnel. That way I can tell more people about the benefits of the membership.”
The key to innovation is to encourage your brain to think in different ways.
Because ideas happen when two or more thoughts come together. And you can boost this with activities which help your brain build new connections.
So you have the best way to gain inspiration and identify winning ideas to grow your business.