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Money Brainstorming Techniques

Many people enjoy seeing and reading about all the different business ideas that have been tried, whether they were successfully implemented or not. That's why there are several thousand subscribers to the Unusual Ways Newsletter (the sign-up form is in the side bar to the right and on the home page if you haven't already subscribed). But what if you want to do more than just read about what others have imagined and done? What if you want to dream up your own ideas about ways to make money? Then it's time for a little bit of money brainstorming.

There are dozens of specific brainstorming and problem-solving techniques that can be used for generating ideas in general. I write about them on my website about brainpower from time to time, and all of them can be applied to problems and ideas related to business, investment, employment and anything else having to do with money. But for now we are going to look at how to use just two of these techniques. These are fun mental exercises that will help you develop your creativity, even if you do not end up directly applying the resulting ideas to your financial situation.

Concept Combination

This is perhaps one of the best, or at least most entertaining, techniques for solving problems and creating new money ideas. The process is as simple as this: Just start combining ideas and things in new ways. Soon you'll be having a good time (especially if you do this with other people), and you might create some new product or service or other way to generate profits or income. Let's look at a real life example.

Anyone could have had the idea for the "pet rock" before advertising executive Gary Dahl invented the product in the 1970s. All one had to do was randomly combine various concepts in new ways and play with the ideas that resulted. "Rock" plus "pet" is a fairly direct combination of two concepts, and although my younger subscribers may not remember, there were more than a million pet rocks sold in 1975 and 1976. My brother's "pet sock" idea didn't do nearly so well, but then at 14 he wasn't the best marketer. In any case, you can see what the essence of this technique is.

But let's be realistic here for a moment. You can combine all sorts of different things to come up with new products and new ways to make money, yet many of the resulting ideas just won't be suited to your skills and experience. For example, "tree" and "billboard" might lead to a great idea for creating cheap billboards using existing trees, but you might know nothing about the billboard advertising business. It's fun to dream up these ideas, but how do you increase the odds of having some that work for you?

Gary Dahl was already involved in advertising and marketing, so he had a bit of an advantage over anyone else who might have tried creating the pet rock. He wrote the 30-page guide, The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock. He marketed and sold the product in the time leading up to Christmas 1975 in order to generate big sales in the short lifespan that such non-functional novelties usually have.

The lesson, if you want to actually invest time and money in the ideas you brainstorm, is to either get the necessary knowledge or to develop the ideas that are in areas where you already have some experience. You might start with things that you know something about, and combine these with other concepts. For example, if a man has a job or business driving an ice cream truck (the kind that stops on each street), he might combine this concept of "mobile sales vehicle" with a hundred other things to see what results. He could end up selling pizza from a truck, or even comic books and magazines. He already knows something about the running a route and selling out of a truck, so these ideas are more practical for him to consider.

Let's look at how you might use the whole process more systematically. First list your skills, areas of knowledge, jobs you've had, and perhaps businesses you might like to have. For the sake of an example we'll assume your list includes "comedy" as one of your skills or interests. You start looking around the room at things and thinking of anything that comes to mind to combine with this concept. Get wild in your ideas. The time to judge them is later. For now, you simply ask questions like, "How would that work?" or "How can these two concepts go together to make money?"

"Comedy" and a "restaurant?" It may seem like there is nothing there, but we eat at a pizza place that has a magician come in on Friday nights. He may not be paid much (or anything at all -- I don't know), but he gets to hand out cards, and gets booked for parties this way. A comedian could do the same perhaps.

"Comedy" plus "computer" may generate some more useful ideas. For an investment of just a few hundred dollars you could be creating and selling your own comedy audios (downloadable onto MP3s) online. There is currently at least one "how to be funny" ebook being sold online right now as well.

Another example: If you have a struggling taxi business, "taxi" and "pets" might lead to a successful arrangement with a kennel, to pick up and deliver their client's cats and dogs. Combining "taxi" with "famous people" might lead to some sort of tour of the town, like they do in Hollywood.

Don't worry about where the ideas come from or how "creative" they are. "Job" plus "phone" could lead to an idea about how to make money on the phone, or may just remind you to call around to see what other jobs are available. That alone could be worth thousands more per year to you if you happen to get the right job, and you probably want results, not just clever ideas, right?

Here is a list of random combinations of things to play with, just for money brainstorming practice:

Book + Your Job

Justice + Advertising

Car + Bank

Investment + Your Knowledge

Singing + Food

Food + Loan

Computer + Car

House + People

Tired + Light

Writing + Gambling

Vacation + Delivery

Hat + Billboard

Opinion + Store.

Problems as Money Opportunities

Start looking at problems differently from now on. Every irritation or disaster or need is an opportunity for someone to make some money. If you or anyone you know runs into the same frustration several times, there is almost certainly a solution that can be the basis for a business or product.

For example, if you hear your parents and others complaining about stairs in their home, it's probably time for someone to make money with a housing development that has specifically single-floor easy-access homes only.

Is everyone where you work complaining about the lunch they get at the sandwich shop next door? Maybe it's time to create some great sandwiches to bring to work to sell.

Having a hard time with your boss? Are the other employees too? Perhaps it is time for a few of you to start your own business, and run it the way you think it should be run.

Problems with your children? If you set up a seminar and hired a well-known child rearing expert for it, you might solve your problem and make some money too.

Real Life Example

A common problem: How to remove various carpet stains. What money making ideas does this suggest? Invent a new stain remover? Write a booklet on removing stains, to and sell in quantity to carpet stores, for them to give away as a bonus? Here's what I did:

I bought lunch for a carpet cleaner I used to work for many years ago, and I asked him how to remove every type of stain, while taking notes. Later I took out my notes and spent a week setting up a website based on this interview (http://www.HowToRemoveCarpetStains.com). Although it has less than a hundred dollars of monthly revenue at the moment, at one point it was generating close to a thousand dollars monthly (it has made over $50,000 during the time it has been online), even though I spent less than twenty hours per year working on it.

That's an example of finding money-making ideas in common needs, and of how a bit of creative brainstorming can pay off. Start looking at those problems as opportunities. Work with each one, listing all the ways it might be solved or addressed.

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