Some people can look at any random thing and come up with an idea of how to profit off of it. While others can spend an entire lifetime without developing the mindset to come up with their own business.
Coming up with a business idea may not be an innate skill for everyone, but it doesn’t mean people who aren’t born with it can’t.
Here are some tips on how to come up with a winning business idea.
Create a vision
It may not be as easy as it sounds, but there is a simple approach to creating a vision for potential business ideas. And it starts by looking inward. Trying to answer as specifically as possible, ask yourself these:
- What kind of life do you see yourself living?
- What are you passionate about?
- What problems do you want to solve?
- What are your strengths?
These are just examples of questions you can ask yourself to begin laying the foundations for what could be an innovative idea. The vision won’t come by answering the first set of questions you come up with, but it allows you to start with a clean slate and a clear mind.
Write down your answers and read them on a daily basis. This will lead to more questions, which you can eventually narrow down to even more specific answers.
Conduct market research
Say you’ve spent a number of years as a writer, and envision yourself doing something along those lines for the foreseeable future. You can take what you already do a step further and look at the content creation market.
- What types of content are currently being produced?
- How can it be better?
- Do you have the skills to create content that’s better than what the market produces?
- Can you come up with a better process?
Of course, there are different questions for different industries, but the key is to understanding how the market works, what the market is doing, and how you can improve it.
Apart from surveying the landscape, the most insightful thing you can do is the most primal—talk to people. When you talk to people (preferably in person), you get a better feel of what their pain points are. You get a better idea of what they want to see in the market, and how much (if at all) they’re willing to pay for it.
The importance of market research cannot be overstated. It may be a tedious and, at times, costly task, but having a misguided business idea is far more expensive.
Practice identifying problems
A lot of the products you’ve become accustomed to using were birthed to solve specific problems. Sunglasses to protect the eyes from glare. Fire hydrants to put out fires before they spread.
So if you’re going to come up with an innovative business idea, you need to practice identifying problems. And the best way to start is with your own. This was what Tinder Co-founder Sean Rad did.
According to Rad, he was always very shy and felt scared walking up to someone to say hello. But he realized that if he knew they liked him, his fear would go away. That’s how they came up with a solution to find out who likes a person without putting themselves out there.
After your own, you can move on to the problems of people you know. You can see them all around – your friends, family, colleagues – all you need to do is pay attention. And with enough practice, you can start seeing solutions for things that could become problems. You can even look at current solutions and find ways to make them even more convenient.
Ideas are all around you, identifying them just takes a conscious effort to do so, and plenty of practice.
8-Step Guide for Curating Winning Business Ideas
Step 1. Start for the right reasons
You need to understand that running a successful business entails hard work, determination, and the fortitude to ride it out when things don’t go your way. If you’re looking to be your own boss because you don’t like working, then owning a business isn’t for you.
This circles back to identifying what you’re passionate about and yearning to share the solutions stemming from that. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking either, as what Fresh Step did.
Fresh Step came up with a line of “scoopable” cat litter that clumps together, allowing cat owners to conveniently scoop it out. It not only makes cleaning easier, it allows them to change the sand less often.
Step 2. Brainstorm, then brainstorm again
Once you’ve identified a list of problems, found what you’re passionate about and good at, and gotten a feel for the market landscape, take time to brainstorm. Conduct multiple sessions with the people you know best and trust the most. Write down every idea that pops out. Keep in mind that no idea is too outlandish at this stage of the process.
And once you’re done brainstorming, give yourself some time then brainstorm again.
Step 3. Find gaps in the market
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a groundbreaking invention. Sometimes, what you need to do is find a solution that isn’t yet being provided. That’s what Whole Foods did and continues to do when the rise of health conscious consumers looked for a central place to shop for organic, healthy and natural food products. The same thing happened for GoPro after a surfing trip in which its founders looked for a way to capture images photographers on the shore couldn’t get close enough to.
Just like problems, gaps are everywhere. They’re just often hiding in plain sight.
Step 4. Invent a new product
This isn’t for everyone as it seems like everything’s already been invented. That is, until something new comes along. But inventing a new product doesn’t mean inventing the wheel, as U.K. insurance company ingenie did.
Ingenie solved the problem of making insurance affordable for young drivers. They did this by creating a small black box that monitors your driving style, taking things like braking, speed, acceleration, and turning, among others, into consideration. Every 10 days, the box assigns a score out of 100. The higher the score, the bigger the discount you get on your insurance policy following the three-month review period.
According to ingenie, they help their customers save up to 50 percent of the usual insurance costs, while also encouraging people to be better drivers.
Step 5. Improve an existing product
This is what cloud storage providers like Google, Dropbox, and Microsoft did to give people easier access to their data sans SD cards and external hard drives. And it’s what Netflix did to streaming content.
There are always ways to improve existing products. Maybe it’s by making it exponentially better as is the case with cloud storage. It could be something that saves people money like energy saving light bulbs. The key is to finding an improved solution that people will be willing to pay for.
Step 6. Synthesize other ideas
Sometimes, a winning business idea isn’t something that’s brand new – it could just be something that is applied in a different domain. Take Singapore-based Grab, for example. It started out basically as Uber for Southeast Asia, but has since evolved to food delivery and logistics services as well.
The exercise could be something like “Spotify for X,” or “Tinder for Y.” Take a look at what people in different industries are doing and see if you can implement a piece of brilliance into your own.
Step 7. “Borrow” others’ ideas
Apple, Facebook, Instagram Stories—these are just some of the bigger names that have made an empire out of stealing someone else’s ideas. And while you have to make sure you’re able to do it legally, the reality is most good ideas are built upon others’.
Albert Einstein has a brilliant quote about this concept – “Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”
Step 8. Test your ideas
Testing doesn’t only mean making sure your idea will work. It’s about finding out if people will actually pay for it. This is what Joel Gascoigne of Buffer did. He knew he could create a platform where he could input several tweets at once and schedule their posting throughout the day. To find out if people would be interested, he put up a page to collect email addresses. Once he saw that there was enough interest, he gathered regular feedback as he built the app.
Coming up with business ideas is a skill not everyone has. But if you’re committed to it enough, and work at it hard enough, it’s an outcome anyone can reach. The important thing is to not give up. You’re rarely going to get it your first (or first 10) tries.
Keep working at it, tie it with your passions, and you’re bound to come up with an idea that you can build a business, and a life, around.