Pictured above: Darryl Kerrigan is an ideas man – an iconic piece of Australia’s equally iconic movie industry.
I have some friends who look at what Toby and I do and say “wow! I would love to be creating my own business too. But I don’t have any idea what I could possibly do…”
Enter (drumroll please…) this post!
In this post I am going to give you a framework for how you should think about idea generation and some suggestions on how to generate ideas based on my experience. What I won’t cover is how to evaluate and choose which idea to pursue. I will save that for a later post.
A Framework for Idea Generation
If you are in a position where you don’t currently have any business ideas to pursue, then your goal is to generate A LOT OF IDEAS. In order to accomplish this there are a number rules which can help us:
You are not allowed to evaluate an idea at this point. This stifles creativity and flow. Every idea is treated equal. And as soon as you think of one…
You must write it down. Write down every single idea.
Give yourself at 1-2 weeks as a timeframe for generating ideas.
When you are on a roll keep going. Sometime in that 1-2 week timeframe you will find you think of one idea, then all of a sudden another and another. At this point, don’t stop! Keep trying to think of ideas until your brain starts to sizzle.
I cannot overemphasize how important the framework above is when you are trying to generate business ideas. I have been through the same process multiple times now and (combined with the below suggestions) it will result in a long list of ideas.
Here are a few ideas on how to get the ideas flowing…
Step I: What do I hate
Think of all things which you despise doing and start writing them down. These are pain points, and if you despise something it is more than likely others feel the same way.
As an example, a few things I do not like:
ironing. (no surprise here)
shavers – I think my electric shaver is too large and chunky to be portable.
work/business shoes. They are not comfortable to walk in and those that are often do not look good.
preparing my food every night for the next day – it takes me on average 15 mins each night and I find it boring.
Receiving bills in the mail. It is a piece of paper I now have to keep track of.
putting clothes out on the line to dry. Surely there has to be a better way… and I do not want to use a dryer.
Socks. How can it be that so many brands of socks are not super comfortable.
Recognise these are all pet peeves. Some might be things which you dislike too, but some are things you would look at and say “who would care about that?”. These are the ideas worth considering – the ones weird people would care about. Weird people = passionate customer base = easier growth and traction.
Keep in mind: the best ideas tend to come from things you dislike about a topic or area of interest which you know intimately.
Step II: Things which I can do better than the average person
If you can do something better than the average person, you have the potential to teach those skills to others. It is an all too common mistake to believe you MUST be an expert to be a relevant teacher.
If you find your friends, family or workmates turn to you for advice on particular topic then you probably have a skill which you can teach other people.
Step III: Things which haven’t changed in a long time
I once read a story about the founders of method and it blew me away. They, like me, knew they wanted to be running a business but didn’t know what they wanted to start. So they started looking around to see what products or industries had not changes in a long time.
They settled on cleaning products! Of all things what a boring product to think you could reinvigorate. But they did and have a look how beautiful their product design is and checkout their site to see their quirky attitude to go along with it – methodhome.com.
This same methodology can be applied to other products or industries.
(Side note: my idea for a product which has never changed is a bucket. Something useful, everyone has one but for some reason I feel like they are not as cool or tough as they should be.)
Step IV: Browse lists of companies
In order to further expand on our now budding list of ideas we can look at what other businesses are doing for some inspiration. A great place to find this is through successful business lists or business award lists. Here are a few to get you started:
Inc 5000 List (United States)
Fast Track 100 (United Kingdom)
BRW Fast 100 (Australia)
When you find a business which perks your interest, here are a few question you can ask yourself:
How can I do this on a different scale? e.g. Different geographical target.
How can I market this business to a different customer audience?
Can I apply the same business model to a different market or industry?
Can I produce a similar product or service on a different platform? Distribute the product or service differently.
If there is one thing about this industry or niche which is really challenging and costly for a business to handle, could I build a business which eliminated this challenge? e.g. served the market in a different way as to avoid having to address this challenge and thus create a unique strategy.
The point of this post is to get you to generate a lot of ideas. Do not think too hard! The temptation is to evaluate an idea before you put it down. Don’t! Write it down straight away, no hesitating.
Next post in this series I will cover how to evaluate your (now huge) list of ideas.