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Millions of ideas float around every day but are never realized. What separates entrepreneurs isn’t the ability to generate a good business idea, but the passion and discipline to execute. If you are struggling to come up with an idea, don’t worry. I’ve used the four methods below to generate hundreds.
Become more observant
As you go through your day, keep your eyes and ears open for problems. Perhaps you overhear someone complaining that the bus is running late. You could create a bus tracker app to let patrons know if there is a service disruption. Or maybe you see a stranger struggling to carry all their drone equipment. You might design a case that they can use.
By remaining alert throughout the day, you will start to notice things that can be improved. Venture outside of your comfort zone. Start conversations with strangers. Get a sense of what others are struggling with.
Leverage your experience of existing problems
Perhaps you are getting married and realize there are no suit rentals in your town for your groomsmen. You could create an online suit rental platform for other grooms in your situation. Or maybe you just purchased a condo and need to buy home insurance. You search online and realize there’s no easy way to compare home insurance rates. You could create a website that compares rates from different insurers.
Look for problems in the industry you work in. For example, you may work in advertising and realize there is a common problem all your clients are experiencing. You have a novel solution in mind, which you could turn into a business.
Travel and look for successful local businesses
Think about whether those services or products could work where you live. I call this “location arbitrage.” Let’s say you are on vacation in New York City and see a floating barge bar on the Hudson River. Seeing how popular and successful it is, you decide to start a barge bar in Chicago on the Chicago River.
I have used this method several times for my ventures. When I was traveling in Florence, Italy, I remember walking through the markets and seeing a particular item of clothing that seemed to generate a lot of sales. I began asking around to see who the manufacturer was. After speaking with the manufacturer and negotiating pricing, I quickly created a website and started running Facebook Ads. Within a few hours, I had several sales. I took a product that was only available in Florence and put it online for the whole world to purchase.
Another example is a co-working space I founded in Denver. On a trip to Denver, I noticed there were only a few co-working spaces available, even though Denver was one of the fastest growing cities for startups. After testing the idea by putting up a website and reaching out to startups, my partner and I decided to launch the company.
Dedicate time to brainstorming
Set aside an hour with a blank piece of paper and think about different industries and problems. Let your mind wander and write down whatever comes to you. For example, you might start brainstorming about home improvement. One issue that comes to mind is finding specialty professionals, like a plumber, who can come to your house quickly when you need a repair. Your solution could be to create an app for on-demand home service professionals (electricians, home cleaners, plumbers, carpenters, etc.).
What do you like to do in your spare time? Can you turn one of your passions into a business? Let’s say you love tennis. You could start a business teaching tennis lessons. Think about your passions and where there might be an unmet need. You could start a business to remedy this gap.
If you leverage the above methods, you can become an idea-generating machine. Buy a small notebook and make it your “idea book.” Bring it wherever you go. Whenever you have an idea for a potential business, write it down, even if it seems outlandish. Before you know it, you will have dozens of ideas to test for your next venture.