What’s A Good Idea For A Business?

Any idea can be a good idea, but not every idea is. Before you process that let’s take the following questions into account. Why did Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) decide to produce cars? How did soft drinks become a billion dollar industry? Who would have thought you could make millions off of junk? When did the internet go from the information highway to the shopping highway? Where did Xerox go wrong with computers and what leads some to believe they should have been the personal computing tycoons of today?

An idea can be a first step in a new direction, the dawn of a new era, or it can be the means to failure – or even worse disaster. In the business world, ideas are at a dime a dozen. So it doesn’t mean much to have an idea unless you know how to turn that idea into realistic goals and are capable of designing a comprehensive plan to achieve those goals.

By looking back on a few of the largest and most recognized businesses in the world, and maybe some that aren’t so recognized, and analyzing the ideas that either boomed or bombed their businesses, we can get a clear perception of why an idea isn’t necessarily enough to determine good business.

Bayerische Flugzeug Werke, later called Bayerische Motoren Werke (English for Bavarian Motor Works or otherwise known as BMW), started off by manufacturing aircraft engines in 1916. After World War II the BMW sites had been heavily bombed or seized by the Soviets. The company saw little opportunity in continuing aircraft engine production and eventually lost all interest. However, they kept their, now widely-recognized, BMW roundel, the early trade-mark symbolizing white propellers against a blue sky backdrop. They ventured further into automobile production bringing a long line of motorcycles and cars to the European market. It wasn’t until the 1970’s, however, that BMW succeeded in entering the premium sector of the commercial market with a stride. Today, BMW’s passenger cars are universally known for their sportish-elegance and luxury.

So while BMW started with an idea to make engines for airplanes, they ended up being recognized for their top-of-the-line, first-class, commercial cars. This is one example of why it’s important to shift your strategy, if and when the strategy to utilize an idea fails to render successful. In this case the failure was due primarily to unforeseeable events beyond the influence or control of the company. BMW still stuck with its idea of producing high-grade quality engines regardless of whether those engines ended up in airplanes, motorcycles, or cars. Therefore the idea was neither good nor bad. It was simply an idea, but one that had been applied with the proper strategies.

There are of course many examples of – thought to be crazy – ideas that ended in tremendous success. The Coke Company, for example, was one to revolutionize the soft drink industry. It was difficult to imagine, in the late 1800’s, that some sugar-water would some day hail a $250 billion a year industry. The idea was perfect. People could go days without food, but water was irresistible. Yet people underestimated the value of water. Economically speaking, people put a greater value on dirt than they do water, but ironically water is the most demanded resource on the face of the planet. So the company supplied that demand – with a bit of an incentive. Don’t just drink water.. drink water that has both a flavor and a color!

Today Coke is the soft drink giant of the beverage industry producing both carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks including such products as carbonated beverages, juices, bottled water, flavored water, and teas. Today Coke has a market cap of $175 billion (USD) and is the world’s largest supplier of beverages.

But those ideas were easy to come up with back then! What could I possibly think of now that hasn’t been thought of already? It could be argued that those examples neglect to tackle contemporary competitive thinking. However, it’s still common today to find new and creative ideas that some businesses haven’t utilized or adapted effectively.

For example, an 18 year-old Canadian entrepreneur, Brian Scudamore, got an idea to make money off other peoples’ junk back in the 90’s. He believed that people would be willing to pay good money to dispose of old junk they no longer wanted around. He also believed people tended to dismiss those who weren’t very presentable from intruding their personal space. So he rented new trucks, gathered a team of cleanly presentable workers – dressed in navy pants and royal blue shirts – and began his business franchise 1-800-Got-Junk? The company collects fees for hauling junk away from your designated location. Everyday thousands of people call in to have large blue trucks come and pick up their old junk and haul it off.

The franchise now operates in 250 locations across North America and Australia pulling in more than $12 million a year. His idea was unique because of both its originality and creativity. Brian found a demand in the market that needed to be met and supplied it in a manner that would befit his overall business objectives, which is critical in business decision making.

As most of you may already know the internet was originally a, technology initiative, government funded project started by the United States department of defense in 1957, and came to be known as the ARPANET (short for Advanced Research Project Agency Network). Later the term ‘internet’ – as we now know it – was coined.

So how did the internet come to be renowned as the ‘information super-highway’? This was because the ARPANET was soon after taken to universities for further research and development. Over the years the department of defense began to slowly withdraw its grasp and military interest over the ARPANET, but continued to fund the project for some time.

After the first transnational link was created educational institutes from the U.S and Europe began communicating over the internet and the exchange of information became quick and apparent. Researchers and scholars of universities in both the United States and Europe were in data crossfire frenzy, shortly there after.

But the idea behind the internet then grew on a whole new level. While researchers were busy developing protocols and programs, the business world began to see new opportunities opening up. It wasn’t until 1994 that the internet began generating ecommerce transactions. Today almost all major businesses are e-oriented and many organizations operate entirely over computer networks (internet, intranet, and extranet).

While the idea, behind the internet itself, was a spin off from growing military interests, in advanced communications technology, it somehow evolved into a new platform for businesses to benefit from.

Pizza Hut’s decision to offer order placement through its website on the world-wide-web in 1994, for example, would not have been likely had interventions not been made by companies like AT&T and MCI to develop high-speed backbones that led the internet to be facilitated by a massive number of growing hosts.

So good ideas for a business or business-oriented initiatives are dependent on our ability to realize potential and effectively seize the maximum benefit from that potential. Such was not the case, however, for Xerox in the 1980’s during the personal computing boom.

Usually we recall names like Apple computers, IBM and Microsoft when we think of how computers came to be of pivotal personal use today. Little is recognized, however, by the Xerox Company’s contributions to the modern computer.

The name Xerox merely brings to mind photocopy machines and fax paper. On the contrary, Xerox holds credit to many of the most basic modern computer technologies such as the mouse, the graphical user interface, Ethernet, and the laser printer – to name but a few. Palo Alto Research Center (short for PARC) is a wholly owned Xerox subsidiary and was largely responsible for the birth of Apple’s ‘Lisa’ computer model.

The idea of creating a graphical user interface, using a mouse to better navigate that interface and adapting – what we now refer to as basic functions of any computer program – features like menus, windows, and icons was nothing short of genius.

However, the company’s top level management failed to turn that idea into a business-oriented objective. The project later moved to Apple computers along with some of the personnel who worked on the technologies in PARC. Then Microsoft used the same idea to build its dominant computer operating system (Windows), now estimated to be used by more than two thirds of all computer users.

Xerox did not realize the potential behind PARC’s idea. They failed to seize the maximum benefit and so they believed that it was not a good idea for business.

The ability of one business to use the same, or a similar, idea of another business through different strategies clearly draws the line between mild accomplishment and ground-breaking triumph in this particular example.

Basically any business idea is the stipulation of a goal met by certain challenges. Your ability to fully realize potential, conceptualize future challenges, lay a plan to overcome those challenges, and achieve your goal is essential to what sets a good idea apart from a bad one.

If an idea suddenly comes to you and you slowly begin to realize the challenges involved, but are unable to attain realistic solutions or alternatives, then it would be best to steer clear of such an idea. On the other hand, if you find your idea growing and new challenges stimulating newer solutions with even better outcomes then stick with your idea. Any idea can be a good idea, but not every idea is good for every business.

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The Internet: A Groundswell Of Social Change, Engaging In The Marketplace Of Ideas

A Groundswell of Change Has Occurred-

Unless you’ve been tucked away in a temple deep within the mountains of Nepal, you have likely noticed a massive surge in a people-driven phenomenon on the Internet. Fittingly referred to as a Groundswell, it is characterized as a “social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies, brands or traditional institutions like corporations.”

Unlike earlier Internet predictions, this phenomenon is not a flash in the pan. Instead it is an eternal, people-driven movement to connect, resulting in a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works and the way commerce is conducted. The groundswell has transferred the balance of power, where institutions and brands no-longer dictate or control the message that consumers hear, because it is now controlled by the masses.

Why should you care? If you’re working to make your organization more visible online, seek to reach new customers, or just want to drive people more effectively into your company’s sales process and improve their purchasing experience, then this article is for you. If you are a small business owner who wants to destabilize your big brand competitor, or alternatively a big brand executive wanting to maintain your dominance. If you want to be recognized as a thought leader or as a builder of collaboration with other industry merchants. You should care.

The Marketplace of Ideas-

It is widely understood that competition between various ideas-through transparent and free discourse-more accurately reveals the better ideas, truths, policies, and/or practices within a marketplace. Fueled by the power of the Web and social media, this marketplace of ideas has taken a quantum leap in efficiency, while also greatly shifting the balance of power. Where information was once expensive, it is now free. The big brands that previously controlled the market’s dialogue quite simply no longer have the reach they once did.

The rules of marketing have changed dramatically since the days when companies began using icons and slogans to capture our attention. Through these methods, marketers perfected the trade craft of one-way interruption to navigate their way into our wallets. Nowadays, consumers have become much more efficient at blocking out these traditional marketing methods, and have become equally efficient at finding trusted sources of information, content, and products online.

Participation is mandatory, and your reputation within the marketplace of ideas depends upon your participation. By positioning your organization with interesting and educational content, your ideas can be discovered via general search engines like Google and Yahoo!, or via specialized search engines to find out what people are saying about you or your products. You can position your organization as a thought leader in your field by knowing the influencers, anticipating what people will say about your organization or products, and determining how you will respond to their comments. Your goal is not to sell to the audience, but rather to engage the marketplace by bringing forth new ideas to be considered. In return, your organization will become more “human” to the marketplace.

The most important thing to remember as you develop strategies and plans to enter the marketplace of ideas is to put your company, products, and services to the side for a little while and focus your complete attention on the buyers of your products. Devoting attention to buyers and away from your organization will be difficult at first, but will always pay off by bringing you closer to achieving your revenue goals.

Groundswell –Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, Harvard Business Press, 2008

Are We Too Dependent on Technology?

I attend meetings at my local weight management group. I am a lifetime member and still enjoy the support and networking and sometimes I get good article ideas. Today my idea came not from the meeting topic, but from what was happening.

This organization automated the operations of the main “store front” locations with computers several years ago. The remote locations they rent only for the meeting times, like at churches and gyms, are not automated. So there is obviously still a procedure for running a meeting manually, however the automated centers no longer stock the supplies for this and some of the staff members either have never been trained on, or have long forgotten, the manual procedures.

Today the computers were down, and even with the help of technical support the staff were not able to get them fixed by the end of the meeting. They weighed people manually and sold products, but attendance and product sales were not being recorded. That’s a problem because the staff earns commissions based on attendance and product sales! This will also cause a slight problem for the members who do not prepay for a monthly pass, because next week the computer will want to charge them for a missed week and the receptionist will need to override the charge.

As a former employee, I loved the technology because it improved accuracy and saved time. But I do feel it reduced the human element somewhat. The receptionist is now so busy looking at the computer screen, scanning things, and clicking on options (when the computer is working:) that I feel eye contact has been reduced. And that reduces empathy and feelings of being connected which are VITAL to this organization.

I realize that many of the things we have today rely on technology. But have we become too dependent on it? Are we losing the human element of business?

I just upgraded to a “smart phone” this week. I confess I have wanted it for some time, so I came up with the excuse of wanting to check email and Facebook while away without having to carry my computer and possibly pay for internet access. I actually find it ironic that the low cost motel chains provide free wireless access while the larger, expensive hotels charge for in-room access. With more people getting smart phones every day, I wonder how soon the large hotels will stop offering access outside of their offices in the lobby which are normally free to use.

I love the idea of the smart phone, but ever since my husband got his, he is often distracted when I am trying to talk to him. It’s just too easy to check mail or surf the net! One man even told me this week that he feels all of the kids these days (and some adults!) talk only in text messages. He said they are always referring to “talking” to their friends when actually they only exchanged text messages.

I love technology. But I escaped my career in it to have more human contact. Yes, I know you are reading this on a computer and I am writing it on a computer! But I submit articles in the hope of actually speaking with some of my readers one day!

Technology is grand and extends our reach. But don’t forget that you have eyes and ears for a reason, and your mouth isn’t just for eating! And my smart phone will never replace hugs.

Technology As a Tool – School Videos Enhance Your Lesson

The use of school videos within the classroom can greatly enhance the learning experience for a given lesson when you carefully select and prepare for the viewing. Sure, you may want to rely on videos from time to time to simply teach or entertain your students while you catch up on other things, but if you only use videos for this purpose, you are missing out on some key learning tools.

Videos often have the ability to not only be compelling, but to teach ideas and concepts in a way that can be very exciting to students. This experience not only gives you and your students a break from the norm, watching school videos also introduces a different method of teaching that can be very effective.

Technology Advancements
Video has certainly come a long way from the traditional 16mm projectors used years ago. Now, technology allows for interactive engagement in the viewing experience unlike ever before. According to James Marshall of the Department of Technology at San Diego State, educational technology complements what a great teacher does naturally.

Dr. Marshall went on to note that with the ever-expanding content and technology choices available – from video to multimedia – there is an unprecedented need to understand the recipe for success, which involves the student, the teacher, the content and the environment in which the technology is used.

Students of Today
Students that come into your classroom today are considered to be digital natives in that they are used to graphics and clever visual images. As a result, many students struggle to sit quietly for a dry set of notes delivered by you. They delight in visual examples and as long as they move, they grab their attention.

To get the most out of the use of school videos, help your students interact with the video by stopping and discussing the ideas or images for a few minutes. This can lead to a better learning experience, and it helps to get the students’ attention.

Arousal Theory
In his research, Marshall highlights that different people learn best in different states of arousal. Things that work well to get my attention may not be exactly the same for you. To arouse students, you need to involve their intellect, their emotions and even their state of physical activity.

Short-Term Gratification
Students today are not used to waiting for gratification; they expect it quickly. The use of school videos helps to meet the needs of short-tem gratification, while also taking students deeper to help them to learn the pleasure of a more delayed gratification. As video offers a fast and active learning mode, you can use it to lure your students into a more in-depth learning experience.

Interest Stimulation
According to researcher, Susan Neuman, television – as one type of video – opens up new learning avenues for students, providing them with a knowledge base that can be extremely useful in school. Video is engaging, activates emotions, stimulates interest in a topic and allows students to absorb and process information.

Videos can be found on nearly every imaginable topic to use in every school subject. Through careful evaluation and selection, you will be able to find a variety of choices that can help you to enhance the learning experience for your students and you can even catch up on a little grading every once in a while.

If you’re ready to start using video in the classroom effectively, your next step is to download a free copy “The 7 Biggest Mistakes Teachers Make Using Video in the Classroom” right now.

How Has Technology Helped Businesses Expand?

There is no denying that technology is essential when it comes to running any business. In fact, many companies welcome new technologies that will help advance their productivity. The computer has not only ensured increased output but, it has also minimized employee workload and company expenses. Companies are now in a position to produce double or even triple of what they did before. They have also enlarged their market through advertising on various social websites, via SMS marketing and other mediums that have technological capacity. Gone are the days of overworking and realizing meager returns. Jobs can now be evenly distributed among employees and effectively worked on. Outsourcing has also become commonplace with many companies. This is a viable way to have jobs performed by skilled individuals at low costs. Most firms outsource work because they save more than 65% by doing so.

On the other hand, small businesses now have a chance to compete with large corporations and form a marketable niche for themselves. There is a place for every business; it only requires that the owner use all resources available to reach his target market. Through technology, a small business owner can keep his trade up to date and attract more customers. He can also get ideas from large companies to expand his business and realize higher returns. By using different marketing software and tools available online, he has the opportunity to advance his business and position it right under his preferred customers. This increases sales, thus better output and more revenue.

Another notable mention of business and technology is maintaining clientele and outdoing competition. This can be done through customer relations, which has been greatly improved. Web owners can interact with their clientele and establish what they need as well as how to deliver products conveniently. Through this interaction, a business will understand how to effectively accommodate its customers and get them to be loyal. This will not only help retain customers but, the business will also grow publicly. Likewise, a trader can outdo his competitors by creating community development projects and programs. This is a sure way to draw more consumers while advocating for a good cause. Developing the community as the company diversifies is a sure way to surpass the competition.

Technology continues to advance and it is therefore imperative for every business owner to remain updated. Incorporating technological ideas is not only advisable for the expansion of a business but, it also makes managing and running the trade effectively, possible.