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Starting a business - creative thinking to generate business ideas

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

Starting a Business - Creative thinking to create business ideas

An entrepreneur is always on the look out for a business opportunity – the thinking process takes place constantly.

However, it can also be argued that a formal process of creative thinking can also help someone set up a new business. This is often referred to as “deliberate creativity”.

Here are some of the models or approaches to deliberate creativity which might be used by a start-up:

Blue skies thinking:

This is a kind of brainstorming in which the thinking process allows no limits in what is suggested and no preconceptions about what the answer might be.  Blue skies thinking encourages contributors to throw in as many ideas as possible. Only when the flow of ideas has stopped does the process go on to consider which ideas might have commercial potential.

Lateral thinking

Originally created by Edward De Bono, lateral thinking is about reasoning that is not immediately obvious and about ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.  Lateral thinking is sometimes called “thinking outside the box” – it tries to come up with new and unexpected ideas.

Six thinking hats

Another approach to creative thinking from De Bono - this is a thinking tool for group discussion and individual thinking.

The approach identifies six types of styles of thinking which can be used to come up with ideas and focus the group on good ideas:


(white hat)

Considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?  Quantitative data on a market (e.g. sales, existing products) would be considered with this hat on.


(red hat)

Instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification). Many entrepreneurs rely on their instinctive or gut feel with their business idea.

Negative judgement

(black hat)

Logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch. The black hat encourages the entrepreneur to think about the things that might go wrong with an idea.

Positive Judgement

(yellow hat)

Logic applied to identifying benefits.  This is the opposite of the black hat – what are all the positives or upsides from the idea.  What is the best that might happen?

Creative thinking

(green hat)

Statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes.  This is the hat which encourages lateral thinking.

Process control

(Blue hat)

Thinking about thinking.  The blue hat encourages the entrepreneur to consider and evaluate the ideas coming from the other five hats!

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Revision quizzes for business students

Starting a Business

Sources of Finance for a Startup
Cash Flow Forecasting for a Startup
Creating & Protecting Business Ideas
Startups and Understanding the Market
Market Research for a Startup
Locating the Startup Business
Choosing a Legal Structure for a Startup
Employing People in a Startup
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making


Breakeven Basics
Costs, Revenues and Profits
Business Costs
Using Budgets
Using Breakeven in Decision-Making
Investment Appraisal Basics
Financial Strategies
Measuring and Improving Profit
Improving Cash Flow
Working Capital
Balance Sheet
Income Statement
Financial Efficiency Ratios
Profitability Ratios and ROCE
Liquidity Ratios


Products & Brands
Place (Distribution)
Price Elasticity of Demand

Business Organisation

Basics of Business Growth
Business Activities
Legal Structure Basics
Sole Traders and Partnerships
Limited Companies
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
Organisational Structures


Working in Teams
Communication Basics
Communication Methods
Workforce Planning
Recruitment, Selection & Training
Employee Motivation
Organisational Structures


Operational Objectives
Critical Path Analysis
Scale and Resource Mix
Lean Production
Capacity Management
Customer Service Basics
Managing Quality
Operational Decision-making
Using Technology in Operations
Working with Suppliers

Economic Environment

Economic Sectors
Government Spending & Taxation
Interest Rates & Monetary Policy

Business Strategy

Leadership styles
Business Culture
Change Management

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