Idea generation is a critical aspect of starting a successful business. It is a complex, ever-changing, and sporadic process, and there is no one-size-fits-all guideline on how to come up with a good startup idea. However, there are certain tactics that can help make the process easier and increase the chances of finding a promising idea, but always remember:
The execution is far more important than the idea itself!
Find a Starting Point
Coming up with a totally new idea on a blank piece of paper can be a daunting task, much like trying to write a novel without a plot in mind. For this reason, the simplest way to find new ideas it to perceive your surrounding consciously and wonder why things you are confronted with work as they are. If you have identified a problem or an idea, write it down instantly! Now your mind will think about the idea unconsciously, which will help you further on if you want to do actual research on it. This approach is more passive, for active idea generation it is important to find fields, problems, or tasks that sounds interesting or promising and apply the following methods to generate new ideas.
Before you start thinking about ideas, you should always remind yourself, that the key for finding a good idea is to identify a real problem!
Focus on the problem not the technology or solution
For me the following starting points worked really well:
Think about Providing Value
- Make people feel better.
- Help people solve a problem.
- Educate people.
- Make people look better (health, nutrition, clothing, makeup).
- Give people security (housing, safety, health).
- Raise a positive emotion (love, happiness, laughter, self-confidence).
- Satisfy appetites, from basic (food) to the risqué (sexual).
- Make things easier.
- Enhance peoples dreams and give hope.
Identify Strengths of your Team
Focus on the skills each team member provides. Using your strengths to your advantage gives you an edge over other potential competitors.
Start with your Problems
The easiest way to identify a real problem, is to inspect yourself and find pain points you get frustrated about.
Create a Variant of already Successful Companies
The advantage of adapting a successful company’s business model is that you can be confident that there is already demand for the product or service. However, this approach also has its drawbacks, as you will need to find a way to outperform existing competitors in order to gain a significant market share. One way to do this is by being more flexible and agile than larger companies, allowing you to quickly adapt to changing market conditions and customer needs. By taking an unconventional approach and making it conventional, you may be able to differentiate yourself from the competition and capture a larger share of the market.
Pivot from already Encountered Problems and Solutions
This is one of the most important parts in the idea generation process. You can use bad ideas you had before and try to pivot them into another direction. Adapting something is way easier than coming up with new ideas and so it can boost your creative output.
Transfer Scientific Research into Practice
In many cases, scientific research remains unused or is only slowly translated into actual products and services. By staying up-to-date on the latest scientific findings and applying them to different fields, you can generate a steady stream of startup ideas to explore. This can help keep your business on the cutting edge and allow you to take advantage of new and emerging technologies and trends. By staying attuned to the latest developments in science and technology, you can identify opportunities for innovation and growth, and position your business for success in a rapidly changing world.
Initiate the Spark
- Start with fields you would be excited to work in for 10 years
- Look at things that have changed in the world recently
- Ask people you know for problems they want solved
- Look for industries that seem broken
Refine Your Idea
Once you have a solid idea, it is important to refine it. Your idea should be describable in one sentence otherwise your idea is to complex, and you need to focus more on what the actual problem is you are solving.
Your idea also needs a clear problem, which can be investigated and evaluated. Every product solves a real and identifiable problem, even luxury brands and influencer merch. Even if it is just the display of a status symbol or the indirect financial support of an influencer you like. If even these ideas solve real problems, your idea has to solve a problem, too.
In the refinement process you should also do some simple market research for competitors or simpler solution to your problem. To do this effectively you could create a user persona and clearly define the pain points a user has without your product and the gains he or she can have when buying your product. You can quickly evaluate your idea with the following questions:
Signs for Promising Ideas
The idea is hard to get started
The idea is in a boring space
The idea has existing competitors
The Industry is big and seems broken
Bad Reasons to Reject Ideas
It is hard to Get Started
Your idea is in a Boring Space
Your idea seems too ambitious
There are Too Many Competitors
Evaluate Your Idea
After you have a solid idea, it is important to evaluate it efficiently. You don’t want to spend too much time just doing research, but starting out with a worthless idea won’t help you either. For this reason I recommend a 3 step process:
Evaluate the Idea for Yourself
- Do you have founder / market fit?
⇒ Are you the right people to work on the problem?
⇒ You need to pick a good idea for your team!
- How big is your market?
⇒ Enter big markets or fast-growing markets
- How acute is the problem?
- Do you have competition?
⇒ This is a good thing, because it shows there is a market.
- Do you want this?
- Did this only recently became possible?
⇒ Search for trends or new research papers
- Are there good proxies for this business?
⇒ A proxy produces similar products, but is not a direct competitor
- Is this an idea you want to work on for years?
- Is this a scalable business?
- Is this a good idea space?
⇒ An idea space is a class that describes different ideas, e.g. software for hospitals.
⇒ Find an idea in an idea space with a high success rate.
- Do you have founder / market fit?
Validate the idea with others
This involves talking to potential customers, industry experts, and other entrepreneurs to get their feedback on your idea. This can help you determine if there is a market for your product and if your solution is viable.
Test the idea with a minimum viable product (MVP)
This involves creating a simplified version of your product to test with potential customers and gather feedback. This can help you determine if there is demand for your product and if your solution is effective. A first MVP does not have to be a working application, it is just designed to get quick feedback. Later MVPs can focus on implementing the core features, but at this point you should be sure about your idea!
In conclusion, idea generation is a critical aspect of starting a successful business. By using the tactics described above, you can make the process easier and increase your chances of coming up with a good startup idea. Remember, the execution is often more important than the idea itself, so be sure to focus on solving real problems and providing value to customers.