Richard Branson: Three ways to generate a great idea

The Virgin Group of companies has been built on a series of great ideas, but how can entrepreneurs ensure that they keep the ideas flowing? Richard Branson has some practical advice to hand out...

"My team and I at Virgin built our brand by making ideas our own. We look at industries where an existing product or service has been lacking, fill that gap with a standout offering, then slap an identifiable Virgin mark on it. Selling records, for instance, was not a new concept when we started Virgin Records, but we found a way to streamline the process and make music more accessible. Air travel was definitely not new when we entered the airline sector, but it hadn’t reached its full potential, especially in terms of customer service, so we disrupted the industry by focusing on fixing that," explains the Virgin Group founder in a recent blog post.

Image from Virgin.com

"Our best ideas usually come from firsthand experience, but in recent times we’ve been using technology to help us incubate great concepts. I try to post on my blog at least twice a day on weekdays, and I use social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Vine and Instagram to get my messages out. Often, the posts start debates and provoke feedback, complaints and more conversation."

But what about those entrepreneurs who don’t have the luxury of an engaged audience and millions of followers online to connect with? Branson believes the solution may lie in platforms that bring together others looking to hone in on strong ideas for their own ventures.

In focus: How to turn an idea into reality

"When I’m not debating ideas in person or perusing the comments on my online profiles, I enjoy visiting the website Ideapod; a social media platform for sharing ideas and collaborating. I met the site’s founders late last year and have been hooked ever since. By offering a space where people can bounce ideas off each other, Ideapod increases everyone’s chances of coming up with game-changing concepts.

Richard’s top tips

1. Starting conversations on social media: The comments that you generate can lead to inspiration.

2. Engaging in conversations: Conversely, reading and responding to other people’s feedback can lead to considerations you hadn’t thought of.

3. When you’re looking into ways you can improve the product or service, keep these questions in mind: What are people talking about? What are your friends and family passionate about? Which issues are currently in the news?

"A few weeks ago, I logged onto the Web site and noticed a discussion about what businesses Virgin should enter next. The ideas varied from producing a low-carbon fuel to making ride-sharing more efficient to launching online education programmes. We have already launched some of the businesses that participants on the site mentioned; other ideas caught my interest and we may look into them further."

How do you come up with your best ideas? Let us know below.

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