Some organizations, including small businesses, may want to start side projects to supplement their revenue, invest parts of their capital, or simply keep their employees occupied full time while waiting for a larger project to start. Coming up with a great project idea is not impossible, as not all great ideas have already been discovered, but it is not a simple task that a person alone or even a team can do over the weekend. Here are some tips for coming up with great ideas for projects:
Define what “great” means
Define what a “great” project would mean for your organization. A great project is one that is not too small, as the deliverables may not be valuable enough to worth the investment of resources, but not too ambitious either because such project would mean high investment, too many risks, complicated project management, and even not enough resources available. A great side project is one that is possible with the resources available in the organization right now. A great side project is one where employees feel that they are creating value and that they own the project. So, as a first step, great project ideas should come from the project team members themselves.
Take your time to find ideas
Give your team enough time to come up with great project ideas. In general, great ideas are not exactly “Eureka!” moments; it takes time to find them. But many people and many organizations are not willing to put up that much time, which makes great ideas, when they do surface, even more valuable.
No restrictions – act naturally
Do not tell your team to come up with great ideas because that would put them under too much stress, which may inhibit creativity. Allow them to come up with ideas naturally, if possible. “Chance favors only the prepared mind,” said Louis Pasteur. That is how it is with all ideas, including those for a great new project. So, during weekly meetings, allow time for discussions on what it would be “cool” to do, and take note of everyone’s opinions. Do not focus on the practical aspect of the project yet; do not “filter” the team’s ideas yet.
But be disciplined and pragmatic
If you cannot afford to wait for your team to naturally come up with great project ideas, you need to take a disciplined, pragmatic approach, and come up with ideas yourself. Use your smartphone’s “smart” features to record all ideas you can think of, regardless of where you are. At the end of the day or week, refine your ideas according to how practical they would be to implement right now. Think of what is missing in your field of specialty and what deliverables would be useful and possible to create with the resources you have at hand.
Teamwork is the key
Once you filter those practical and possible ideas for the side project from the rest, discuss them with your team and see which idea would make a great project today, without any further training, resources, and external capital investment. Choose the feasible idea that the team is most enthusiastic about and initiate the project the next day. This path is likely not possible in large organizations where it may take months to get the approval for a project, but rather in small organizations with enthusiastic team members and flexible management.