All entrepreneurs are inventors. But some are better at it than others. Meet Doug Hall, 42, author of Jump Start Your Business Brain (F&W Publishing) and CEO of Richard Saunders International Eureka! Ranch, a think tank outside Cincinnati. Companies as diverse as AT&T and Frito-Lay have descended on the Eureka! Ranch, where Hall and his staff help them brainstorm new products and services and new ways to market existing ones. Creativity is the man's craft.
Entrepreneur: Do you have any strategies for creative brainstorming?
Hall: The obvious tactic is related stimulus, which is the down-and-dirty facts, like the market research and the product itself. You should try to look at that from a fresh perspective. But then I'll also use unrelated stimuli. That could be a successful product completely unrelated to the challenge you're working on, or it could be a book you're reading, maybe a biography on somebody successful. You should ask, "How can I apply those lessons to this challenge?"
I try to keep brainstorming continuously; I'm constantly prompting myself for new thoughts. The creation of ideas has to become a part of who you are, as opposed to something you turn on and off. Like we've had chicken 18,000 different ways, and last night, when cooking dinner, I put together a recipe and made a totally different dish. Now, that wasn't a creative thing for the business, but I was exercising the brain, making associations, taking the stimulus, both the relevant things and randomly grabbing stuff.
You listed Benjamin Franklin on your board of directors and named your company after him-Richard Saunders was his pseudonym. Is there a creative benefit to having a historical figure as a mentor?
Hall: It gives you a frame of reference, the ability to add diversity to your thinking. It's the same kind of concept as that popular [expression]: What would Jesus do? What would Benjamin Franklin do? It gives you somebody whose values you respect-a frame of reference for another way to think about things. For instance, Franklin built his business through alliances and partnerships. As this business began to grow, I thought, "I don't want to have tons of employees," so the model Franklin used was the model I followed.
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