Navigating Startup Idea Maze

A simple mind map diagram can be a vital tool in keeping you focused to avoid this brain clutter. All you need is a sheet of standard letter paper. Start by drawing a small elliptical circle in the center of the sheet of paper. Inside the ellipse, write the purpose or vision for your business. This brief sentence should boldly promise a better outcome for your customers. This purpose serves as your primary filter to keep all of your ideas focused on the same long-term purpose.

Now think of all of the primary products, services and business functions needed to accomplish your business purpose. For each one, draw another elliptical circle and spread them around the outer area of the page. Link each outer ellipse with the central purpose by drawing a line between them. This cluster of ellipses joined to your vision in the middle of the page represents the first mind map for your business. This diagram is immediately helpful in managing the flow of ideas, keeping them in context and even establishing a prioritized approach to going to market. By following a simple process, you will remain focused and organized.

As you get a new idea, first ask yourself if it supports the central purpose for your business. If not, then dismiss it immediately and do not spend any more time exploring it. If another person proposed the idea, thank him or her for the creative input before discarding the suggestion. You do want to encourage input from others. You first want to focus on planning and executing ideas that will accomplish your purpose. If it seems a very good idea that is not relevant to your business, then file it away for later use or share it with someone who can benefit from it.

If the idea does support your business purpose, then ask yourself if this idea is a major product/service category similar to the ones you have drawn in the outer ellipses on your mind map. If the answer is yes, then look to see if this idea is already on the diagram. If so, you’re done. If not, then decide if you want to add a major product/service and draw another outer ellipse on the page.

Many new ideas belong on the map, but not at the level of a major product/service. These ideas are sub-categories. For example, you may have Customer Education as a major product or service category in one of the outer circles. As you think about this category, you decide to deliver education in several different ways, including seminars, videos, online self-paced training and multi-part classroom lectures. Each mode of delivery fits under the education category. Add them to the map by attaching them to the lines that connect the outer ellipse for Education to the central purpose ellipse. In this way, the line will have several words written next to it that allow you to capture the idea in context and move on.

Use this mind map to communicate your business idea to others and to maintain your focus on your core business purpose. Establish a prioritized go to market approach by identifying the sequence in which you will create the products/services on the map. Free your brain from clutter to focus on the real work to accomplish your vision with a simple mind map.