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An entrepreneur is always on the look out for a business opportunity – the thinking process takes place constantly.

However, it can also be argued that a formal process of creative thinking can also help someone set up a new business. This is often referred to as "deliberate creativity".

Here are some of the models or approaches to deliberate creativity which might be used by a start-up:

Blue skies thinking:

This is a kind of brainstorming in which the thinking process allows no limits in what is suggested and no preconceptions about what the answer might be. Blue skies thinking encourages contributors to throw in as many ideas as possible. Only when the flow of ideas has stopped does the process go on to consider which ideas might have commercial potential.

Lateral thinking

Originally created by Edward De Bono, lateral thinking is about reasoning that is not immediately obvious and about ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic. Lateral thinking is sometimes called "thinking outside the box" – it tries to come up with new and unexpected ideas.

Six thinking hats

Another approach to creative thinking from De Bono - this is a thinking tool for group discussion and individual thinking.

The approach identifies six types of styles of thinking which can be used to come up with ideas and focus the group on good ideas:

Neutrality (white hat)

Considering purely what information is available, what are the facts? Quantitative data on a market (e.g. sales, existing products) would be considered with this hat on.

Feeling (red hat)

Instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification). Many entrepreneurs rely on their instinctive or gut feel with their business idea.

Negative judgement (black hat)

Logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch. The black hat encourages the entrepreneur to think about the things that might go wrong with an idea.

Positive Judgement (yellow hat)

Logic applied to identifying benefits. This is the opposite of the black hat – what are all the positives or upsides from the idea. What is the best that might happen?

Creative thinking (green hat)

Statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes. This is the hat which encourages lateral thinking.

Process control (Blue hat)

Thinking about thinking. The blue hat encourages the entrepreneur to consider and evaluate the ideas coming from the other five hats!

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