Where do great ideas come from?
(not where you think…)
Great ideas come from sitting down, focussing on something specific and planning them out, right?
We’ve asked this question of some of our peers and here is a list of some of the most common answers:
- In the Shower
- Travelling (on a plane etc)
- Falling Asleep or Waking Up
What do you do about them when they strike for you? They seem to come when you are least ready for them or looking for them.
Generating ideas is easy. Ideas are like…well, you know the saying. Are you writing them down? If you’re like us, writing them down was one of the first steps to moving ideas to fruition.
The 2 things we did to implement this process was start using Evernote and buying a bunch of small, cheap notebooks and put them around the areas we used to happen upon ideas.
Where did this end up? Well, notes and notebooks everywhere…stuff was getting lost.
Our next big aha-moment came when we started organising our notes. Figure out what each of the major categories of ideas that you have are and then set aside some time once a week to sort through them. If your ideas aren’t organized you’ll never be able to figure out which ones to actually act on.
David Allen of Getting Things Done says that we need a “system we can trust” when it comes to productivity and organisation.
So what do you do now you have a system for capturing and organising your business or startup ideas? What if you still can’t find one or have one but not sure whether to kick it off or not?
Dan Norris explores the 9 Elements of a Bootstrapped Business Idea in his fantastic book The 7 Day Startup. Here is a quick summary that we have tweaked:
- Enjoyable daily tasks – You have to make sure that the tasks you will be doing for this business can be enjoyable. Otherwise, people who actually enjoy those tasks will outwork you and succeed while crushing you along the way.
- Product/founder fit – Don’t stack the odds against yourself, stack them in your favour. Think about what skills you have, what you might be known for, and most importantly where you can provide the most value. For example, it may not be a good idea to pick an industry where you have absolutely no knowledge about when you are an expert in many other things. Don’t focus on making money, think about creating value.
- Scalable business model – There are some business ideas which simply do not scale. Think about how you can allow your business to replicate profits over and over. Don’t go with business ideas where there is a clear limit to your profit.
- Operates profitably without the founder – Maybe not when you launch, but at some point you would like to have the business automated so that it doesn’t consume all of your time. A business that consumes all of your time is just another job. This should resonate with anyone who has read the Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.
- An asset you can sell – The goal is to create something so valuable that you can sell it away (even if you don’t want to). Think about what you build as a long term asset. For example, having lots of site traffic may be great, but having a large e-mail list is much better.
- Large market potential – This is pretty self-explanatory, but it will require you to actually think about the problem and do some research. Also of note, sometimes the fact that there isn’t anything out there similar to your idea may be a bad sign that there is no market need to begin with.
- Tap into pain or pleasure differentiators – The key to differentiating yourself is to look at current solutions and see where there is friction or annoyances. Usually, people experience pain points during a particular task, and experience pleasure points after the painful task is finished. Ask yourself if your idea sufficiently attacks these two angles.
- Unique lead generation advantage – How will you find your customers? Does the solution make you and your company unique? You need to be differentiated in the traditional sense as well , the idea should allow you to catch the attention of people by virtue of its unique value proposition.
- Ability to launch quickly – Pretty simple, don’t choose something you can’t launch and modify quickly. If you are going to build something so complicated that it would take months, then you probably won’t be able to modify and change it fast enough later on as you learn from your customers. If it would take you longer than 7 days to come up with a prototype, either get better at making prototypes or find a better idea.
Avoid low barriers of entry
Also of note is to make sure you don’t pick ideas where there is a very low barrier to entry. It would be so easy for anyone to simply catch up to you right away if it was so easy. As you pick your idea, keep in mind that you have to be creating every single day.
An interesting idea from the book is that we should ask not what tools people might want, but what tools people are already paying for. This is what it means to relieve the pain points without cultivating new behaviors from customers. By developing something completely new and out of the blue, we have to coax our potential customers into thinking they might need or want our tool. However, if it is something they are already bleeding money into, then you can help them out there with your product.
Are people already paying for a solution to the same problem?
- Brainstorm a bunch of ideas
- Evaluate them against the 9 element checklist
Keep us updated on your process in the comments below.