When a business idea strikes, it’s much like falling in love

Sometimes it just happens and you can’t always explain how or why

Where do the best ideas come from? How do you know if they’re any good and might work?

Ideas are like love. Romantics, poets and philosophers have tried forever to explain this emotion and state of mind, but they rarely succeed.

The same mystery applies to ideas that can be spontaneous, “aha” moments. It’s not essential to always know where they come from, but you must be ready to do something with them after they strike.

The ubiquitous railroad crossing sign that admonishes drivers to stop, look and listen,can be lifesaving, and provides excellent advice on how to seize an opportunity.

Some of the best innovators are perpetually on alert, watching everything around them, especially looking for annoyances that can trigger a better-way idea. It likely starts with seeing something that doesn’t work as it should or something that “should be,” but isn’t.

Example: A door makes an irritating noise every time it’s opened and closed. An aware innovator/opportunist was motivated to come up with a button-sized silicone sound-dampening bumper that sold tens of millions of units.

Ever drop your cell phone between the two-inch gap between your car seat and the center console and spend the next 10 minutes fishing it out? Another aggravated opportunist did and came up with a storage tray that fits between the car seat and the centerpiece, which is not only handy for storing stuff, including your phone, but also prevents an ongoing problem.

Did these inventors, who made millions, wake up thinking they might produce these ideas? Likely not. Instead, they just stopped, looked and listened. They then started reflecting on solutions that probably came to them hours, weeks or months later.

The same applies to contemplating your business, not so much in terms of what you’re doing at the moment but instead, what you see every day that could be better or something that your customers might not even know they need just yet — until you tell them.

Almost everyone has had that good, maybe even potentially great, fleeting thought. Then a few hours later, the only recollection is that it was something promising that, for unknown reasons, evaporated almost as quickly as it came. The trick is to have the discipline to capture and ignite that spark.

It starts with harnessing that thought for future consideration. You can do this by jotting it down on a piece of paper or quickly dictating it on your cellphone. Calling your phone voicemail is always a good option, too. Alternatively, preserve the idea(s) in a folder on your laptop, iPad or the old-school hanging desk file. But don’t forget the requisite routine of revisiting your ideas every so often, be it weekly, monthly or even longer, to take that all-important second look. Determine if the idea still resonates and decide if it was just a fanciful, fleeting thought, something irrelevant or just maybe a concept that deserves future exploration.

Doing things by rote can be stress-reducing and sometimes relaxing, but cultivating ideas takes real work, much like building a relationship after falling in love.

Visit Michael Feuer’s website www.TipsFromTheTop.info to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”