During the next ten minutes endeavour to come up with as many answers to each question as you can. Only after you have completed each question should you review your solutions. At stage one it's all about quantity – the more answers you come up with the higher your chances of generating something wondrous.
Stage two is the sifting process – picking the gems and discarding the rest.
Follow this process and you'll have no shortage of excellent ideas to use throughout your company.
WHAT'S SOMETHING I COULD DO THAT'S REALLY EXTREME?
Often when we brainstorm, our ideas are merely tiny changes to what's already there. By choosing to conceive ideas that must all be extreme we have a chance of coming up with ideas that, with a little tweaking, could be something really special.
WHAT COULD WE ADD TO SOMETHING WE ALREADY DO TO MAKE IT MORE EXTRAORDINARY?
Is it not true that many of the most impactful concepts in your industry were only slightly better than what everyone else was doing?
WHAT COULD WE STRIP AWAY FROM WHAT WE ALREADY DO?
When you look at an existing product or industry you can often come up with something novel by just reducing the core idea to something simpler. For example when Bic produced the first mass produced disposable razor it was merely a simplified version of the traditional version.
WHAT IDEAS COULD WE TAKE FROM OTHER INDUSTRIES AND APPLY TO OURS?
It's amazing how little cross pollination there is between industries. Yet one of the quickest ways to come up with a break though idea is to examine what other industries are doing and see if you can apply those concepts in your sector.
WHAT COULD WE STEAL FROM COMPETITORS AND MAKE A SLIGHT CHANGE TO?
By stealing of course, I don't mean outright IP theft, I am suggesting that you look at products and strategies your competition is using with success, alter them a little then try them yourself.
WHAT WILL THEY BE DOING IN OUR INDUSTRY IN 20 YEARS?
Don't look forward 12 months, have a go at foreseeing two decades. You may not predict accurately but you are far more likely to come up with interesting ideas and directions for your company.
WHAT WOULD WE BE SCARED TO DO?
This question is all about pushing the envelope. How far would you go? Could you go? The answers will often up all kinds of intriguing ideas – and possibly create entirely new sectors. As the British Special Air Service commandos say, 'Who Dares Wins.'
WHAT WOULD STEVE JOBS DO IN THIS SITUATION?
Or John Paul Getty? Or Andrew Carnegie? By trying to guess how great entrepreneurs would handle your business situation you free your mind up to think in different ways.
WHAT'S THE FASTEST THING WE COULD DO?
This is another out of the box way of thinking about your business. If the usual product cycle in your industry is 12 months, how could you get a product out in 12 weeks? Don't just say it's impossible, force yourself to think more laterally.
WHAT'S THE CHEAPEST THING WE COULD DO?
The vast majority of successful companies were started with less than $25,000. Many have been begun with a few hundred bucks. Contrary to popular opinion tiny budgets often increase creativity, not inhibit it. So think cheap, really cheap. What could you create for a song, if that was your only option? Stick with that question for a while and I guarantee you some exciting solutions will emerge.
So in summary, these ten questions have the potential to open the floodgates of your mind in the new year. I have used them for years to generate all manner of highly lucrative business concepts and directions. If you're looking for a business break through, these questions could be the answer.