Travel: The catalyst for great Ideas…

It didn’t take long, about 2 hours in another country and I saw it…

Surprising how a bit of cloth surrounded by elastic grabs your attention. But as I was being driven from Johannesburg airport to my accommodation in the suburbs early that beautiful morning in May 2010, I was taken with something I had never seen before.

There on the wing mirrors of almost every other car I saw were ‘gloves’. Gloves?

Yes, but they were no ordinary gloves. The elasticated gloves tightly surrounded the rear of the driver and passenger mirrors and displayed the South African flag in full colour. 

The gloves were far more elegant than the flags waving from cars we have become accustomed to in the UK – although admittedly there were an abundance of these too.

World Cup football fever had created a simple but highly innovative idea.

My point: I’ve never seen these mirror gloves in the UK yet they would probably sell just as well as they did in South Africa. And then there’s all the other countries.

When travel is combined with the freedom to think, innovative & entrepreneurial thoughts flow far more freely than sitting in a room with a blank piece of paper. The late Anita Roddick built her Body Shop Empire after returning from her travels abroad (recommend her autobiography ‘Body & Soul’).

Of course hitchhiking is all about travel but crucially it adds that vital third dimension of meeting different people who provide both original ideas and objective feedback – all for free!

Since I made a point of asking questions and listening to answers, people who picked me up would often tell me about problems and difficulties they were facing in their work or personal life. Sometimes in incredible detail. Even as I write, I am toying with the idea of hitchhiking around the UK for a week just to meet others and learn about their lives; because the seeds of new ideas exist within the problems they talk about.

So, if you’re ambitious but a little short on great ideas, how about combining travel and research? You don’t have to hitchhike but the more you can engage with new surroundings the more information you will uncover. If you remain open-minded and wait for the ideas to flow you will undoubtedly be able to apply the appropriate entrepreneurial twist .

Key Learning Points: Travel broadens the mind. Discover and research new ideas by seeing new places and meeting new people. Applying a successful idea that is already being used in another country can significantly reduce the business risk too.