Brain signals cause your thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations.
The human brain can rewire and make new connections regardless of age, which is fascinating. Neuroscientists call this “plasticity,” The more experiences and changes in behavior or environment we have, the more our brains can make new connections and rewire old ones.
This is why we have trouble remembering and controlling our bodies as we age. Our brain is still plastic but has stopped making new connections.
New idea generators and non-generators differ similarly. More practice makes your brain better at making new connections. But keeping your brain active makes it easier to generate good ideas!
Humans first settled in thousands-strong groups after agriculture. This allowed for more connections and a faster spread of good ideas.
If you keep this in mind as you work, live, and experiment, you’ll soon realize it’s easier to develop new ideas when you have a steady stream of them. This can happen anywhere, including online, in books, and in other forms of communication. “Connectedness” matters.
Let’s discuss how to generate business ideas that solve problems now.
Solving problems is the easiest way to generate business ideas. Helping others is the second easiest. These can be much smaller than Google Search or Amazon.
Fresh step solves a significant problem I have with litter box-using cats. The new step makes “scoopable” cat litter that clumps when the cat poops and is easy to clean up. It reduces sand changes and makes cleanup easier.
Once you realize that every frustration is an idea, you’ll start having fun!
The UK is another company that solved the problem of starting a business—Ingenie Car Insurance.
Many young drivers cannot afford insurance. Ingenie solved this problem creatively. They made a car-fitted black box. The box tracks your driving style—braking, speed, acceleration, turns, etc. The package gives you a 100-point score every ten days. Your three-month insurance policy discount will increase with your score.
Ingenie claims to save students up to 50%. Plus, it improves driving. Very smart.
Last example: is GoPro, a 2002 camera company. After surfing in Indonesia, founder Nick Woodman was still looking for amateur photographers who could get close enough to take reasonable action shots or afford quality equipment.
The fix? The GoPro—a wide-angle lens HD camera that could go where other affordable cameras couldn’t. You can scuba dive, mountain bike, fly, and crash a model airplane with one in a case.
GoPro business idea solution
Derbyshire, England, model airplane GoPro footage.
Try noticing your frustrations as you do your daily tasks at home or work.
Suppose you’ve been in an industry for a while. In that case, you may have good insight into this because there may be longstanding issues—venture capitalists like Boris Wertz value investors with much market experience. It would help if you found “the market secret” or those issues.
Because I only have two monitors at my desk, sitting at work irks me. I often write in a quieter place away from my desk. Writing and research require a second screen—breakdown on one screen, writing on the other. Leaving my desk is a sacrifice. A laptop with two screens would solve this problem—who wants to help me start the company?
Even if you work for someone else, learn to identify pain points. Companies that don’t use their products baffle me. Palo Alto Software uses LivePlan to track key business metrics. They must do this to understand a user’s pain points and know if problems need fixing.
Finding problems becomes fun once you get used to it. Remember, every situation, especially a common one, is an opportunity for a new product, service, or company.
You can generate new ideas without solving current issues. Why not solve future problems?
Elon Musk is the most futuristic here. Some may mock his ventures, such as Solar City and Tesla Motors. Still, Elon is preparing for a future without fossil fuels. Being first gives him market share and time to innovate. Hope others catch up!
You can create a market for your idea by appealing to those who, like you, think it will be a problem in the future.
Desalination plants in California are rapidly running out of water. Preventative medication for diseases like ebola, makeup, and accessories to protect privacy when face recognition software takes off, and breeding programs or nature reserves for animals that will become extinct without help are all potential problems with apparent solutions.
Physiological needs—food, shelter, and water—remain. Emotional needs often stem from envy, greed, pride, etc. Products and services to meet these needs change.
Products that meet a need are most accessible to the market.
Cloud storage is ubiquitous. Nowadays, CD and SD card sales are less prominent. They’re still available, but online storage is becoming more accessible.
Our modern need to access data, information, photos, music, and more on any device is the cause. Google, Dropbox, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and many private companies sell cloud storage.
Saving people money is another great idea generator. They last for years and are the equivalent of a 100-watt lightbulb, not because they’re cheap.
ARCO gas is cheaper than Chevron and Shell, even though BP owns them.
Even though I want actual bookstores to survive Amazon, I buy my books on Amazon because it saves me a lot of money. If I could, I’d buy a Tesla, books from independent bookstores, and food from farmer’s markets.
Unless you make hundreds of thousands of dollars, pounds, or euros, creating more “moral decisions” to buy from and support better companies and people is still a luxury.
Saving people money is a good business idea, new or old. See our money-saving tips for more.
A central vacuum cleaning system that means only carrying a hose and brush around the house rather than the whole unit; a smart thermostat like Nest that can save you energy; shopping baskets placed at convenient intervals in the store in case you want to buy more than your arms can hold—the list goes on.
Business ideas don’t require new products or services. You could also improve an existing service or add a unique benefit.
I shop at Kohls’s because of their lifetime return policy. They will replace or refund a product even without a box or receipt. This makes me feel good about the company and keeps me coming back, even though their prices are higher to account for this benefit. It simplifies life.
When I moved to Eugene, Oregon, I bought my microwave, kettle, toaster, and vacuum cleaner from Kohls, knowing I could return them even if I lost or threw out the receipt in four years.
There are always small ways you can help yourself or others. If you do this regularly, you may be able to release new products that are updated versions of the old creation that make someone’s life easier. The Garmin Nuvi improves on GPS models without live traffic updates. This small addition improves the product significantly. The Waze app provides real-time traffic updates and reroutes with just your phone. GPS unnecessary.
Can you think of a task, product, service, or action that could be simplified?
My Salomon trail runners do this. Pull laces and keep them tied while I run. Because I need to improve at tying laces, they don’t fit as well as my Asics, but I stop less.
Look around and ask, how can this be easier? How could it be more user-friendly, intuitive, and less stressful? Even a tiny change could make something popular. Start with “The Design of Everyday Things.”
View our Business Startup Guide today!
Reduce the unpleasantness of chores
Online marketers and developers “gamify” software to make it more user-friendly. Thus, they devise small rewards for your actions.
I track my running distance and speed with Strava on my phone. Strava gives me a trophy or other recognition when I break a record. Once I’m used to getting trophy icons, running without one is hard! It makes running more fun.
What annoys you? How can you enjoy it more? I want someone to help me hang clothes, drink water, and pay my bills. Any ideas?
Turn a hobby or passion into a business
This may be the next step for those already making or doing something. If you’re good at something you do regularly but don’t consider a hobby, consider turning it into a business.
Glass painting, writing, researching, jewelry making, jewelry repair, illuminated lettering, social media training, and more are things I do regularly that could be business ideas. Everyone has routines. If you’re good at any of these and need business ideas, consider turning your hobby into a business.
Alex Alotte, my sister’s boyfriend, is. He wanted to use the best tools as a bartender in San Francisco because a craftsman’s tools are his pride and an essential part of his image.
This last part was crucial since Alex served several reputable clients and companies. He had a few excellent muddlers to choose from. Most were plastic, dull wood, poorly shaped, poorly finished, etc. After hearing about Alex’s search, a high school wood shop relative suggested that Alex make the “perfect muddler” after hearing about Alex’s search.
Alex made “high quality, beautiful, wooden muddlers that verge on art” because he liked working with his hands and needed a hobby.
He bought a lathe and other tools to work. The bartender uses the bat-like product to grind, mash, or crush herbs, sugars, fruits, and ice. Alex’s wood-figured muddlers are rarely used to make mojitos.
Alex sold a $50 “art” muddler while refining his product. Set up an online store and determine how to make this a full-time business.
Alex Alotte’s handmade muddlers solved a business problem.
Alex Alotte’s handmade muddlers.
Start with something familiar if starting a business scares you. You’ll enjoy the process and won’t feel like a business.
However, consider your feelings if things work out. It may become less fun as you start doing your hobby to meet customer demands or pay the bills. You may need a new hobby!
Think of products and services that meet any of Maslow’s human needs. Next, expand.
Consider: Humans require constant hydration. We’d die without water. Thus, all of our homes and workplaces have plumbing.
Companies have found other ways to meet this need, even though water is free almost everywhere. They offer portable water solutions. They’ve made portable flavored, “vitamin,” and CBD-infused water.
Facebook lets users connect with friends and family at Maslow’s pyramid’s love/belonging level.
With books and tapes on achieving your dreams, boosting your self-confidence, and being the best, Tony Robbins and others are in the esteemed category.
It may seem manipulative, but many of the products you use already address these needs, such as the toilet paper you buy (physiological), the locks on your door and the pepper spray you carry (safety), the birthday card you buy for your friend (love/belonging), the feedback you seek via LinkedIn recommendations (esteem), and the tools and situations (like the Peace Corps) that allow you to practice your creativity (self-actualization).
Use a base emotion
What angers you? Your happiness? Why jealous?
Andy Maslen, a famous copywriter, calls appealing to base emotions exploiting.
Andy is right, positive or negative. He believes humans make decisions based on one of seven emotions.
These are the seven deadly sins:
Anger (wrath) (wrath)
Many of today’s services and products are designed to exploit these emotions. How many people need their nails buffed or their legs waxed?
Society has advanced evolutionary reactions. Today, we clean hair to attract a mate and look better than the competition, but we used to clean it.
We now have a salt spray to add volume, hairspray to hold a style, and dry shampoo for when you don’t have time to shower. Companies sell these products by exploiting our basic needs.
Salt spray and volumizing shampoo are easy sells for my fine hair. Oils are easy to sell to my friends with thick, bushy hair. Everything exploits our pride. All these products are unnecessary.
Look at the seven deadly sins and see if your daily products and services exploit those needs. You might even notice how advertisers do it!
The more you do and experience, the more material you have to create new ideas or combine seemingly unrelated ideas.
Bill Gates so strongly believes in fate to generate new ideas that he often scans books on multiple subjects.
London Business School marketing professor Nirmalya Kumar knows how important it is to be curious and look outside your industry to generate new ideas.
In this video interview, he says he would always feel like he was writing or speaking the same thing if he didn’t read widely and find connections. He finds new ideas and relationships by reading outside of business.
“Intelligence and raw knowledge are overrated,” says Nirmalya. Diverse interests matter more.”
I highly recommend his interview with Matt Symonds.
Doing more can also make creativity easier. I find new topics, case studies, and ideas this way. I’d be limited to what I know without this. Doing and reading things outside my “usual” helps me tell more exciting stories!
No shame. Most good ideas are derivative.
A high school story my sister wrote inspired my MA dissertation. I developed her idea in college.
Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling. Don’t tell me the Death Eaters weren’t based on the KKK, Lord of the Rings didn’t inspire the Forbidden Forest spiders, or that J. K. Rowling created her strange and fascinating creatures without using myths. Quidditch, a fictional game, is based on witches riding broomsticks.
I only mentioned a few methods. However, I hope these examples will help you create or improve ideas.
Need more business ideas? Bplans has a great idea guide. Check out this article to see if your idea is good. This free downloadable idea checklist will help you consider every aspect of your business idea, including how to test it.