Article written by Lars H., current student of the Global Entrepreneurship Program regarding the “New Venture Creation & Strategy” course taken at emlyon business school.
“I want my company to change the world.” This thought has undoubtedly crossed the mind of any young entrepreneur at some point. Naturally, it is thrilling to aspire to be a visionary along the lines of Steve Jobs or Elon Musk and to devote your time to developing a business idea that you believe has the potential to thoroughly disrupt markets or even create new ones on a global scale. However, finding this kind of idea is easier said than done. In fact, as a current student, I find this to be one of the biggest challenges I am facing when working on my own start-up. How do you find that “magic” venture idea that stands out from the rest and has the potential to make such a massive impact? Is it a question of innate talent, of sheer luck or is it a mental process that can be taught and fine-tuned?
“I want my company to change the world.” This thought has undoubtedly crossed the mind of any young entrepreneur at some point.
In the Global Entrepreneurship Program, we are frequently encouraged to think outside the box that most people are comfortable spending their lives in. In the “New Venture Creation & Strategy” course, we were taught that great ideas don’t magically present themselves, nor do they come falling out of the sky. Rather, they are often the product of exercising what some call the “idea muscle”: on a daily basis, an entrepreneur should be exceptionally observant to his social environment and attentively scan it for the opportunities hidden within. In fact, the ability to find value in situations that most people would just label as ”problematic” is often a hallmark of a good entrepreneur. Repeating this process over and over helps to sharpen the mind and to improve the quality of the ideas generated.
Furthermore, stretching the “idea muscle” is a process that increases exponentially in effectiveness when done in group. In class, we were confronted with all sorts of everyday situations and engaged in brainstorming sessions where members were encouraged to name any and all business opportunities that came to their mind. Rather than ex ante judging these ideas on their merit or writing them off as terrible, we were asked to build off each other’s suggestions no matter what our first impressions of them were. This process, even when applied to mundane situations, yielded dozens of ideas almost every time.
In class, we were confronted with all sorts of everyday situations and engaged in brainstorming sessions where members were encouraged to name any and all business opportunities that came to their mind.
Only in a second phase did we filter the results of these sessions, ranking them by feasibility. Even then, aside from further developing the business opportunities we liked best, we were told to take the ideas that we ranked lowest of all, including some that most people would consider completely ludicrous, and to transform them into ideas with actual business potential. While this was far from an easy process, it required us to use as much of our collective creativity and brain power as possible. It also highlighted that even the worst types of ideas can have a seed of potential within them.
Another essential takeaway from this course is that entrepreneurs looking to build a company from the ground up should always start by defining what exactly the customer’s pain or need is before focusing on a specific product or service to fulfil that need and ease that pain. Working the other way round may still lead to profitable short-term results, but is ultimately limiting in the long run. A lack of understanding of the customer’s perspective will, more often than not, lead to tunnel vision and stifle the creativity and openness of mind necessary to make substantial innovations further down the line.