Do you want to start a business, but haven’t found the perfect idea yet? That’s okay–coming up with the right idea can take quite some time. In fact, the process is common enough that startups have a name for it: ideation.
If you’re hungry to create something new but just don’t know what, try some of the following.
1. Keep a journal.
Inspiration can come at any hour of the day. Dedicate a specific journal, notepad, or note on your phone to various ideas that pop into your head, no matter how absurd they may be. You may never use some of them, but the process will fuel your creativity and might serve as a stepping stone to an idea that you can use.
2. Start paying attention.
Successful businesses solve real problems that people have. Instead of searching for an idea for a business (a solution), start with a problem. Keep an eye out for different issues you or those around you face. With each problem you encounter, you should:
3. Talk to people.
The best way to find out what problems people experience is to ask them directly. If something bothers them significantly, their body language will tell you everything you need to know. If you have a problem in mind, don’t just make assumptions about it – ask people if they think it’s really an issue! What you see as a pain point for others might be a characteristic that they had never noticed or perhaps one that they even enjoyed! These are potentially your future customers, so it’s better to find out whether they will buy your imaginary product now than after you have built it.
4. Attend an event.
The startup community is always hosting events. Try one out, and make it a point to learn as much as you can about the different people and companies present. Observing how other entrepreneurs are tackling problems can be a tremendous inspiration, plus you very well might meet someone that can help you take your idea to the next level.
5. Know your strengths and interests.
Finding just any type of problem in the world might work for a school project, but it won’t be enough to sustain your interest over the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey. If you are going to build a company from scratch, it’s going to take more blood, sweat, and tears than you think. So consider your greatest strengths and most sincere passions, then search for an idea that meshes well with both. Settling for less shouldn’t be an option.
Tip: Start by thinking about issues that you have faced in your own life. Not only will you already understand the validity of these problems, but you will more than likely have stronger feelings about them than others.
Resource: Try taking the 16 Personalities strengths test. It’s a great free tool that gives insight into the way that your particular mind works.
What if I still can’t think of anything?
If all else fails, try putting a hold on your own idea and start working on someone else’s. Working for or interning at an existing startup is not only a great way to get your creative juices flowing, but can provide valuable experience that you can bring to your own venture down the road.
Otherwise, just be patient. Uncovering the right entrepreneurial opportunity takes time. Simply keep an observant, curious mind at all times and the ideas will almost certainly follow.
Ethan Adams is Manager of Startup Development at Future Founders.
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