top of page

Great business ideas often come unexpectedly

The unexpected POTUS

Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka - the epitome of unexpected!

All of my best business ideas have come to me out of the blue when one might least expect it. My first business idea came about watching a TV show about the future. The year was 1984 and the program explained how computers have the ability to ‘talk’ to each other over the telephone line. At the time, the fax machine had just been introduced – a jaw dropping development that wowed everyone who witnessed it for the first time - and hardly anyone had a computer as the personal computer hadn’t yet been launched. So this concept was almost science fiction for anyone watching but for me it sparked an idea that proved to become one of the earliest services on the internet. At the time, I was just a junior account executive in an advertising agency in Central London. Whenever we were pitching for new business, I was often tasked with getting the information about the product and the market it operated in and then briefing the rest of the team so that we were as knowledgeable as possible in advance of the pitch itself. In those days, it involved going to the library and trying to find press clippings amongst the huge filing cabinets, getting company records and buying market research reports. All of this took days at best and often many weeks to compile.

My idea was to sign up the major newspapers, retype their papers into a computer (in those days the news publishers were still making up the pages every day with printing plates - they hadn't started using word processors!) and allow people to use a computer to interrogate the archives. Sound familiar? It wasn’t at the time! Market Analysis and Information Database (or MAID) was born and went on to be the forbearer of all online information retrieval. By the time I sold MAID to Thomson Reuters (in March 2000), MAID was the world leader in information retrieval with over 200,000 publications online and going back in some cases to 1907.

You could be walking the dog….

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, some of humanity's best breakthroughs have occurred inadvertently. Another example of this was the invention of Velcro, which was created by Swiss scientist George de Mestral. Mr. Mestral was hunting in the mountains with his dog when he noticed that cockle burs attached themselves to his dog's fur. Eventually, Mr. Mestral duplicated the hook patterns of the cockle burs, which then became Velcro.

Our best ideas happen when we least expect it

Sometimes, our best ideas come to us when we are not directly looking for them. In a report funded by the European Commission on the value of patents (that you can read here), it discovered that more than 50% of patent owners credited a serendipitous event for their invention. In other words, inventors were not aiming to create what they ended up creating. But because they were open to what was around them, they made great discoveries.

Distraction and daydreaming is good

According to Harvard Psychologist, Shelley H. Carson, distraction provides an "incubation period", or a respite from excessive fixation on a problem. This "incubation period" is often created when doing less demanding cognitive tasks such as showering. By taking breaks doing these less demanding cognitive tasks, this allows you to see the ‘big picture’.

Joydeep Bhattacharya of Goldsmiths University in London has discovered that when you are relaxed you are more likely to arrive at creative solutions (see the research here) . And separately, research in Australia showed people are more likely to solve puzzles lying on their back than standing up (check it out here). Perhaps it’s because when people are relaxed, their daydreaming encourages them to think outside of the box (as reported here) I believe that this scientific evidence backs up what I already knew innately, that when you are relaxed, you are more likely to be creative which will lead to discovery.

So there you have it, chill out and let your mind drift away – then, and only then, will you come up with idea for your huge business success!

Featued Posts 
Recent Posts 
bottom of page