Monday, April 7, 2003

Entrepreneur’s first investment: Generating ideas

NOTE. This article was first published in The Manila Times - Business Section, and also at the following web address:

THE reason business scams continue to attract people is that we are not so discerning because we have already lost grip of our personal values. We are very trusting or we are easily lured by our own greed and the prospect of the fast buck or we are simply lazy and, therefore, we easily suck up to other people with ready business ideas.

Who says the Philippines is poor? Think about all those billions of dollars that those unscrupulous scammers brought out of the country. This is the kind of war that we should wage to the finish. Let us make sure that those con artists pay for their heinous deed.

The best cure is prevention. More than legal actions, our national and local government and every family system should not just talk about it but should start the transformation of our society by resurrecting and acting upon traditional and time-tested values such as honesty, integrity and sincerity.

In this our Journey on Entrepreneurship, let us backtrack a bit and talk about legitimate business ideas. This is a way for us to immunize ourselves against con artists and help us determine the best way we could benefit from our investments by doing honest work.

Again, our country needs inventors, creators and innovators who would produce, manufacture or create new products, technology or ideas. Already we have more than enough traders, retailers, merchants, buy-and-sell people and other middlemen or go-between the producers and the customers.

More than any other resource, generating ideas is the first pro­cess and investment to becoming an entrepreneur. This involves thinking things through, asking all sorts of questions, seeking clear answers, identifying central and peripheral concepts, testing assumptions and premises and coordinating divergent thoughts and beliefs.

The process of ideating also involves the exciting exercise of playing with ideas—combining, simplifying and making them complex by adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing them. Remember, Albert Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity by seriously and earnestly playing with the idea in his mind. He did not need money to do that. He invested mostly intelligence, integrity and keen sense of vision and mission. He was relentless, purposive, patient, deep thinking, discerning, exhaustive and enthusiastic among others.

Thinking, though, precedes planning and acting.

Let’s try. First we will do a SWOT analysis. One way to do this is to brainstorm. I suggest that you do brainstorming alone. It is established that creativity resides in every person. Other people might distract you or even shoot down your ideas unnecessarily. Mr. Einstein worked alone; then, he tested his ideas on his fellow scientists.

How do you brainstorm? You need only one tool: paper and pencil or tape recorder or computer or PDA. If you are the type who works best in a quiet environment, go ahead and lock yourself up in your room. Pin a sign, “Don’t disturb, brain at work,” on the door. Or find a peaceful corner or bench in your office, park, the beach, or wherever.

My sons prefer loud music when they are thinking. At times, I am able to concentrate when I am in front of my computer with the TV set broadcasting news or a movie or the radio playing soft music.

There is only one rule in brainstorming: document your ideas as they come. Don’t linger on one idea. No ifs, no buts, no ands. Don’t evaluate any idea. Don’t erase anything. Just add new or contrary ideas it to your list. You may want to express the same idea in another language or simply paraphrase it. Once you’ve written down an idea, forget it and move on. Never mind duplication. That’s part of the pattern of life and nature. Eventually, everything will fall into place and the seeming mess will form a pattern. “ There is order in nature’s disorder,” says AIM Prof. Federico Macaranas.

You don’t have to do this in one seating. You can go back to it again and again. Take as much time as you want. For purposes of a guided discussion, you have one week. Then we will process your answers.

The main objective of our brainstorming is not only to determine what business you should be in but also to fire your motivation and ambition. We will search for a singular business idea that could propel you to success like Mr. Einstein. At this point, please don’t even think of the financial gains that you will eventually realize. Don’t think yet of the investment or capital you need, or the location, or size, or business plan. One at a time, please. Patience is a big virtue of an entrepreneur.

For every question, please generate ideas. Don’t bother about grammar or language. Just jot down what comes to your mind.

• Why do you want to start or go into a business?

• What do you enjoy doing or what delights you?

• What do you want to do with your time?

• What skills and talents do you have?

• What are your previous experience and training?

• What do others say you are good at?

• How much time do you have and are willing to run a successful business?

• What hobbies or interests do you have that are marketable?

Starting and running a business starts with an idea, your motivation and your ambition. Your answers to these questions will increase your chance for success.

PRAYERS & ACTIONS. Let us pray for the early resolution of the conflict in Iraq. Let us contri­bute to world peace. Let us make peace with our own enemies, real or imagined. Making peace means forgiving and asking for forgiveness; then forgetting about the past and turning a new leaf. Never mind who is at fault. There is today and a whole future in front of us.

ASTD UPDATE. For brochures about and travel package for the 2003 ASTD (American Society for Training & Development) International Conference & Exposition, please call Paradigms & Paradoxes Consultants (Malou Amante at 715-9332) or Philscan Travel (Thelma Dinoy and Che dela Cuesta at 816-6486 to 91).

Moje Ramos-Aquino is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., a human resource and organization development systems and training provider and could be reached via

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