If you’ve spent anytime in the startup world, you’ve probably heard of a founder who has experienced a “eureka!” moment. Like being struck by lightning, they instantly have an idea for the next Uber or Airbnb.
But these serendipitous moments are even more rare than a lightning strike. And in reality, rather than forming out of thin air, these ideas are usually the result of proven methods that lead to great ideas.
It can be difficult to generate a great business idea. Landing on it won’t happen by itself. Thankfully there is no time like the present. Never before has there been so many tools and resources at your disposal. With ever changing technologies potential customers are open to new ideas.
So rather than waiting around for lightning to strike or the startup gods to bless you, implement the following methods for generating your next big startup idea.
1. Examine yourself
Now that you’ve made the decision to jump into the startup world, you need to examine yourself. Whether you have a team around you or you’re starting out alone, you need to get to know yourself extremely well. Without this practice you can easily become your own worst enemy.
Have you ever been a member of a team led by someone who didn’t know their place? Maybe it was a team lead who was thrust into the position by upper management. Without the proper experience he or she didn’t understand their strengths, weaknesses, or what role they should play. Self actualization prepares you to guide a team or an idea to success.
Begin by examining your own strengths. This will help you know what areas you will need to supplement with other team members or what areas you will need to hire out.
Once you know your strengths, examine your interests. You may come up with a million dollar idea, but what if you have no interest in the particular industry? You may want to reconsider the idea once you consider journey ahead. The startup journey can be arduous. If it’s in an industry you have no passion for it will only be that much more difficult.
A great way to discover a business idea is to examine your own pain points. Think through your day and contemplate any areas of difficulty you encounter throughout your day.
2. Keep an idea journal
Now that you know yourself, it’s time to start brain dumping. As I’ve already mentioned, not all ideas are delivered like a lightning strike. Ideas can also be generated. But it’s a practice you must force yourself into. For the next 30 days, force yourself to write down one idea each day that could be monetized.
Generating an idea for a new business may take some time at first. But this will program your mind to start actively seeking out potential ideas.
Have you ever noticed when buy a new car you begin noticing the same car everywhere you go? The reason is that your mind has been primed to notice cars similar to yours.
The subconscious is powerful tool, and priming it can lead to impressive results. An idea journal will encourage your mind to start recognizing new opportunities automatically.
3. Go offline
Have you ever noticed how your mind can be lulled into complacency after hours of staring at a computer screen? If you want to generate ideas, you need to give your brain a break. That means you either need to step away from the desktop or close the laptop.
According to Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School ideas generate best when your brain is at a lower, more relaxed, state called the alpha state.
According to Dr. Benson’s research, people who access this state tend to demonstrate superior performance on both physical and mental tests.
Throughout the day your brain is producing beta waves. They allow us to multitask, but can also lead to anxiety and stress since they are faster than alpha waves.
We rarely give our brains the opportunity to produce alpha waves. Between work, social media, and the countless other activities and devices that captivate your attention you're harming your brain's ability to come up with creative ideas and solutions.
Today, more than ever, you need to give your mind the opportunity to relax and allow your creative juices to flow. This is the reason you often come up with ideas while laying in bed.
Distraction can be the best method to allow your mind to wander. It could be taking a hot bath, working out, or going to a movie.
4. Take a new approach to brainstorming
Brainstorming is one of the first recommendations when faced with the need to develop new ideas. But the traditional method of sitting with your peers in front a whiteboard is ineffective and outdated.
Take a moment and think back to your childhood. Do you remember any of the ideas you came up with? Castles were constructed from pillows and costumes were created with a single bed sheet. Working like a child is a key part of discovering your next startup idea according to Joel Holland, founder of VideoBlocks.
Kids lack the self-doubt and fear that affects adults. As a child you never stopped to overthink your ideas.
“You simply imagined, then created. So the first thing I want you to do is find a way to forget everything you accept about the world and how it works. Peel back the stinky onion layers that have been wrapped around the simplicity of childhood. I want you to tap back into that childlike mentality where creativity roams free and fantasy very gently blends with reality.”
Groupthink often leads to a bunch of similar ideas based on the same concept. The corporate method of stating a concept and asking everyone to begin stating “the first thing that comes to mind” only goes so far. It has two major limitations.
First, it causes everyone to begin thinking in a similar way. The first answer subsequently impacts the following answers.
Secondly, many ideas often don’t get mentioned for fear of judgment.
In order to effectively brainstorm, tap into your inner child and get alone.
5. Conduct market research
Neglecting to conduct market research is one of the biggest mistakes you could make in coming up with a new business idea. The idea you have may sound great in your mind or on paper, but in depth research will determine whether there is a legitimate need for your new concept.
Your market research may lead you to the conclusion that your potential market would be far too small.
Additionally if your idea is something you plan to patent, begin by searching Google Patents. You might find that your idea has already been patented.
6. Stop waiting
So, you have this great idea that could be the next unicorn. You can’t stop thinking about your idea. You’ve done some research and believe there’s a legitimate need for it.
Planning and research are vital components to launching your next business. But success comes when you stop overthinking and start acting upon your idea.
Think back to Joe Holland’s childlike approach. You’ll never find a child pouring over a spreadsheet before he begins constructing his fort made of pillows and blankets. There’s no delay when it comes to the execution of their idea.
While the importance of planning should never be overlooked, too often we get trapped in the idea phase and fail to step out of it. While there may never be a perfect time, there’s never been a better time in history to launch your idea than now. Nearly every industry is ripe for technological advances.
7. Create an MVP
It’s one thing to plan and research, but the best way to test your idea is to execute it.
Bringing a new product to market can be expensive. But think about it: by creating an minimum viable product you’re able to test a simple version of your product.
There are several reason why creating a MVP is a good idea. Creating a MVP allows you to test how your product to see how it will perform in the market. This reveals how your audience will respond to your product.
Additionally this reveals areas of needed improvement and prevents potentially costly mistakes.
A MVP not only shows how your audience will respond, but also how you will respond to the product. You’ll become intimately familiar with your new product as you map it out on both paper and your computer screen. But by creating a tangible product you’ll be able to know whether you can see yourself dedicating more time to your startup idea. If you don’t love it you may want to reconsider pouring more of your own blood, sweat, and tears into it.
Take some time for reflection and then begin listing your ideas. Force yourself to stop the business of life and allow your brain to go offline. Once your mind has a chance to relax, get away and begin brainstorming alone to flush out all your ideas. And once you have several ideas begin your market research in order to know whether there’s a need for your idea. But don’t allow your new concept to remain an idea. Listen to the advice of Nike and “just do it!” Stop waiting around and go execute your idea. But before you fully commit yourself (and your wallet) to the product, create a MVP to test how it will perform in the market.
In what stage is your next big startup idea? Ask yourself, “What step do I need to take in order to see my idea move beyond a concept in my head?