Suzanne Hazelton is a positive psychologist and leadership coach. She works extensively with leaders on aspects of mindset, as well as pragmatic tools for leaders. She’s the author of two books: Raise Your Game (Panoma Press) and Great Days at Work (Kogan Page), and she’s written a chapter about mindset in Entrepreneurs Succeed with Us. In May 2020 Suzanne was granted funding from Innovate UK for a project for finding recommended world class content from Great British institutions (museums, galleries, science centres, space centres and orchestras). The pilot phase of the project was successfully delivered in September 2020 – and if you’re looking for inspiring things for your children (aged 4 – 11) take a look at www.geniebubble.org
Generating ideas that get funded
From frustrated tired and stressed female business owner -> idea -> business funding -> a global user base and a sense of making a difference. Here’s how I turned a frustration into an idea that attracted government funding – and now makes a difference globally. I share my four step process so you can begin to do the same.
Perhaps, like me back in the early part of 2020 your world was turned upside down. I was one of the lucky ones – our business kept most clients. Our workload increased: We upped our support to existing clients and started providing free business support to our local business community. Not to mention the morale (and shopping) support to our octogenarian neighbours. And like many we started to experience school-at-home for our (then) 5-year-old daughter.
Our daughter kept us (mainly) sane. With a world in crisis – there is nothing quite like the humour and curiosity of a young child, and that kept us grounded. But both my husband and I were burning the candle at both ends. We were balancing between aiming to give our daughter some normality with schooling, combined with making her time at home a bit of adventure – at the same time as running a business in overdrive. I think the polite way of saying it is that “I was feeling the strain”.
We found some innovation funding that suitable for some of our business clients. I remember writing an email to highlight the availability of this funding. At the same time, I was overwhelmed with texts and messages with “great things to keep your kids entertained”, whilst juggling being a mummy and a business owner.
Then I had one of THOSE moments. Fortunately, I’ve been doing “this stuff” of coaching long enough to listen to my intuition. I filled out the form for funding for the germ of an idea. Our application for funding was one of 8000 submissions. I understand ours was one of 800 that was funded. But this isn’t about me … this is about YOU.
Here the 4-step approach we took to listen to our frustrations. I share the approach and start to turn your frustrations into ‘something’, a business idea or an opportunity.
Step 1: Notice
So first, notice or observe the frustration. What’s “bothering you”?
I’m a positive psychologist – there can be a perception that it’s all a bit “happy clappy”, or Polyanna-ish. However, Positive Psychology is a body of scientifically researched approaches. Approaches that have been proven to positively affect happiness, well-being and motivation. But even with the “tools” of positive psychology I am still sometimes negatively impacted by the world around. That is, things still frustrate me.
Now when something frustrates you – think “this is great!”. Sit with your frustration – because solving it could be an opportunity.
When we think “they should” change it, or “it shouldn’t be this way”, the risk is that we give away our personal power. As I write this, various women’s teams in the Olympics are pushing back on “skimpy” clothing, they are taking back their power – and making change happen.
You may not have the skills to do what you want to do at the moment – but you can and will grow in the process of growing your idea.
Before you move on, you might want to look and see if someone else has found a solution. Not to worry, if there is a similar idea. You are unique, your experiences, your circumstances, your perspective. This all brings richness to your approach. And it’s also worth considering IF you want to take on the challenge – which is part of the next step.
Step 2: Mull
Mull is perhaps an odd expression, but sit with the problem, roll it around your mind, mentally give it a prod, stretch it out. Like plasticine in a cold room – you’re warming it up and “getting a feel for it”.
- In the cold light of day … (and having got some more sleep) – is it still a problem?
- Who else does it affect?
- How long has it been “niggling”?
- How “big” is the problem?
- Is it a challenge you want to take on?
Begin to ask yourself “how could this be solved?” … and be open to how the answer will pop into your mind. Asking yourself that question just before sleep, primes your subconscious. Just be ready to capture whatever pops into your mind.
Step 3: Open
Be open to finding a solution – or to have a solution find you. More on that in a moment.
Perhaps you already know how to fix the problem. This might be one of those situations where your knowledge in one arena can be transferred – and you’re thinking “why has no-one thought of this before?”
But if you don’t know the solution but want to – you have some options. Be open to ideas coming from “strange” sources. For example:
- Cats eyes (reflectors) in the road and Velcro were both “invented” after looking at nature
- the sewing machine (with the eye of the needle within the tip) apparently came to the creator in a dream
Have a notepad handy. Jot down any strange thoughts. Be curious. Ask yourself “how can this solve the problem?”.
Trust yourself and your intuition.
Step 4 – Explore
Next is taking a serious look to see if there is there anything else out there that solves the problem? You might want to keep a note of the search terms that you use – as they will come in handy much later!
If there is an existing solution – what is the “problem” with it? There are some high profile cases of where there was a solution – but someone came up with a different idea. For example, Yahoo existed before Google.
As part of your exploration, you can begin to think about who might pay for your product or service, consider whether it is “commercial”. Who would buy it? How much might they pay for it?
A word of caution about speaking to friend and relatives. Many people won’t fully understand your idea – the one you’ve been “mulling”, and they won’t want to upset you so they might say something like “oh, that sounds interesting”. You are not likely to get good feedback.
The tide is changing across many industries. Consumers tastes are changing – as we realise the effects on the environment. So, the time is right for you to step into your power. Don’t leave it to “them” to fix when you already have an idea.
This is your time! Go and change the world – or at least your corner of it. Good luck.
 From the film Polyanna where the girl could (annoyingly) see the best in any situation, totally underplaying any negativity
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