Every single business begins with a single idea. A bolt of inspiration, a flash of the lightbulb. Some people are lucky enough to experience that all on their own, to naturally develop ideas because of their experiences or career. Others are less fortunate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a fantastic business idea, you just need to try a little harder.
Here are some methods of brainstorming that can help you pull all sorts of business ideas from the depths of your mind. They might not all be winners, but keep going and you’ll be sure to hit an idea that, one way or another, develops into the foundation of a viable business.
Throw ideas at the wall
With this method, there are no limitations to where your brain goes, and no wrong answers. Simply get out a whiteboard and a notepad and start writing down literally any idea that comes your way, whether it’s from your own brain, or if you’re working in a group of people all throwing ideas. There are no wrong or stupid answers, here. No, not all of them are going to be viable businesses, but they can lead to something more valuable.
As you look over your results, you will find that some of words and phrases written down can get you thinking more seriously about other related ideas that could be more valuable. It’s a good beginning step to any brainstorming session as well, as it gets your mind running, making it much easier to think on your feet about new ideas.
Cross-examine the market
You might have a particular market or industry that you’re interested in, but you’re not exactly sure on how you could fit in there, yet. You need your business to be different from what’s already out there, so to achieve that, you should consider looking to other companies’ products and services. Instead of purely copying them or taking inspiration from them, start thinking about what they’re missing.
Are there portions of the market that these companies are missing for one reason or another? Are there any common complaints about certain aspects of their products or services that repeatedly come up? Focus on what they’re doing wrong and ask yourself if you can fit a business in that space. If there’s a niche of customers that they’re not hitting, is it big enough to support your own business? Or could you build on what a business is doing, but offer more, by making its primary services part of a package deal alongside other services you’re qualified to offer, as well?
Think of the next logical improvement
Business ideas don’t always have to be revolutionary. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes, it’s more than enough to reiterate it. Successful businesses have one thing in common above all else: they start ahead of the curve. They have ideas, technology, or approaches to service that haven’t become widely used across the market yet. As such, think about current businesses out there in industries or markets you would like to join, but ask yourself where they should be going next.
Think about where these businesses could be in ten years time, how their services will improve and iterate in that time, and any technological leaps they might have taken in that time. Is it possible for you to get ahead of the curve and to bring a little of the future into your business? If so, you could end up with a truly disruptive force that could make you the next thought-leader in the market.
Look to your own problems
Another important thing that all truly successful businesses do is that they solve their customers problems. Every commercial interaction is driven by need, above all else, and if you can find what a customer’s problem is, you also find what their needs are, which you can develop products and services to address. You can try to find needs that exist in the market you’re thinking about hopping into, but how about your take a closer look at some needs you might be ignoring: your own.
Look at frustrations in your own life, troubles you’ve had with past companies and products. You might not be able to identify what your problems are immediately. Go about your day-to-day life, but keep an eye out for when those little problems appear. You might find yourself using a product or interacting with a business and find yourself getting frustrated or upset. That’s when you strike on what the problem is, and develop an idea that fixes it.
Map your mind
For this idea, it’s best if you already have some sort of idea, market, audience, or industry in mind. It doesn’t have to be fully developed, but you need a basis to work off. Making a mind map starts by having the key word, question, or issue in a circle in the middle of the page or the whiteboard with a circle around it. From here, you start thinking about questions and ideas that relate to the key topic and connect them with lines leading back to it.
The conversation, whether with yourself or a team, will spiral out into many different directions as you explore the next topic, pull more points out from that, then explore that topic. When the conversation hits a dead end, you head back up to the start and start exploring another topic that sprouted from that key word, question, or issue all over again.
It doesn’t end there
Simply having the idea doesn’t mean you’re ready to go, of course. Next, you have to start researching. See if you have the market to support the business, or any competition to be concerned with. Ask yourself what your target market’s greatest needs are and how the business helps meet them.
With the above tips, you should have a few ideas, but take the time to try and test them before you throw yourself wholeheartedly into the launch efforts.