How can you get inspiration for outstanding business ideas? Not sure?

Well, eight top innovators — alumni from the Stanford Graduate School of Business — have their favorite techniques.

In the post, 8 Different Ways to Get Great Ideas, they share how they achieve creativity.

Here are excerpts of the eight interviews:

1. “Interrupt the logical mind and allow space to daydream”

“What inspires me is beauty and the human desire and capacity to create it,” says Rob Forbes (MBA ’85), founder of Design Within Reach and PUBLIC Bikes.

“I listen to Glen Gould’s piano pieces or other acoustic music in the morning,” he adds. “My best ideas come randomly. I take naps and steam baths. You need to interrupt the logical mind and allow space to daydream.”

2. Listen and reflect

“Every real insight I’ve had has come from being a good listener,” says Jessica Jackley (MBA ’07), cofounder of Kiva.

“I need to have time for quiet reflection to digest it and consider how it affects me, to figure out my voice and how I can contribute to that story,” she explains. 

3. Expand the “adjacent possible”

“I have worked in so many different industries and niches: big companies, small companies, government, for-profit, not-for-profit, etc.,” says Denise Brosseau (MBA ’93), CEO of Thought Leadership Lab. “My best ideas come from this collage of experiences.”   

4. Don’t seek out great ideas

“Great ideas find you,” says Lecturer Andy Rachleff (MBA ‘84), Cofounder of Wealthfront Inc. “I don’t think you find great ideas. Look at Microsoft. EBay. Dropbox. Airbnb. None of those guys was looking to start a business. The ideas just hit them. The great ones just know.” 

5. Collaborate with others

“I come up with my best ideas by engaging and talking with other people,” says Trae Vassallo (MBA ’00), general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “Great ideas are not solitary things. Feedback from other people is the best catalyst.”

6. Spend time away from your industry

“I get my best ideas when I get off the grid and detach myself from my industry,” says Laura Ching (MBA ’00), cofounder of Tiny Prints. “Spending time thinking about fashion, toys, or architecture frees me up to think imaginatively. It’s hard to be innovative when you are stuck in your own industry.” 

7. Observe consumer behavior and culture

“I enjoy observing consumer behavior and culture.” says James Gutierrez (MBA ’05), founder of Progreso Financiero. “I like to envision what could be, and I ask myself: Why isn’t this better? How could it be better? I start to play out that scenario in my head.

“The best ideas come out of pain points I experience in my daily life and based on what I learned of gaps in financial services at Progreso,” he adds. 

8. Free up your mind

“For some reason more ideas come to me when I am near water — even taking a bath,” says Chip Conley (MBA ’84), founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels. “I just did a weeklong meditation retreat. Freeing up the mind is a good way to get to inspiration.”

” We fill our lives with so little space. Inspiration looks for crevices to parachute into,” he adds. “The fewer crevices you create in your life, the less likely you are to have inspiration come through you. You need to allow yourself to be a vessel so that something can come through you.” 

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related posts:

16 Desirable Mental Approaches for Entrepreneurial Success — Humor me, as I recall a great sports metaphor for business. The greatest switch-hitting slugger in baseball history – Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle – was at his best in clutch World Series action. 

Feeling Less Creative? You’re Not Alone – What to Do — Is it an epidemic? Creative professionals increasingly admit to a decline in their effectiveness and children’s creativity has also waned, according to two studies. 

8 Strategies to Consider Before Starting A Tech Business — Before you launch a tech business, here are eight salient strategies to remember. 

Best Practices for New Women Entrepreneurs to Stay Focused — The keys for business women are to plan well, create the right balance, persevere and have the right support system. It isn’t commonly known, but women entrepreneurs inherently have stronger skills than men in key areas. 

You Have a Great Business Idea, but You’re Stuck in 1st Gear? — Budding entrepreneurs often have great ideas but many hit self-created stumbling blocks. The typical excuses and reasons are varied. They’re afraid of having their idea stolen. They’re indecisive about how to proceed. They’re not expert in management and operations. They’re unsure about the economy. Sound familiar? 

“You’ll find boredom where there is the absence of a good idea.”
Earl Nightingale


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.