A lot of people give inspiration too much credit.
Let's talk about how to come up with great business ideas without the inconvenience of waiting for inspiration to strike.
Dots and Lines
Coming up with good business ideas is like identifying dots and connecting them with lines.
For example, you see a niche to fill in one industry (dot) and you read about a new technology that's being developed for a completely different industry (dot) and you realize the new technology being developed for one industry could be used to help fill the niche you've identified in the other industry (line). By recognizing a niche to fill and a technology being developed for another industry that could fill that niche, you've come up with a brilliant business idea.
The more dots you have to connect, the more chances you'll have to come up with viable business ideas. Getting more dots is simple. You need diversity in what you read, who you meet and what you experience.
Let's look at how to do this:
Diversify Your Reading
Whether it's books, websites or magazines, we tend to only read about what we like. But, when trying to come up with business ideas, reading broadly rather than narrowly helps. Don't ignore subjects you assume you won't be interested in because you never know where that next idea is hiding.
Finding books and magazines to read is easy. You can check best-seller lists, look at what your mentors or people you admire are reading and search for publications about subjects you've always been curious about, but had never bothered to look into before.
Videos and podcasts are also a great resource to learn about subjects.
Diversify Your Acquaintances
Meeting new people in a variety of industries will also add more dots and lines to your business idea factory.
Listen to people who have something to contribute to you because:
- they possess knowledge that is useful to you,
- they have experiences you can learn from, or
- they know you and support your aspirations.
Friends, family, mentors and teachers can all be located easily.
As for those outside of your immediate social circle, try:
- Trade Shows and Conferences: Even ones from industries you don't think you'd be immediately interested in.
- Business Groups: Chambers of commerce, trade associations, local meet up groups of a particular profession or industry.
- Professional Development Organizations: Like mastermind groups or Toastmasters International.
- Service & Civic Organizations: Such as Rotary International, Kiwanis or Lions. Not only will you meet a diverse range of people, but they do some amazing work in their communities and around the world.
- Business Networking Events: You probably already frequent these, but try going to some new ones.
- Self-Improvement Events: They're like self-help books come to life and they tend to have a great energy because everyone is there for the same goal of becoming a better person.
You'll need to be discerning and know when to escape a conversation if you feel that it's taking up your time without giving you anything in return. Unlike a video, you can't just turn someone off if they're wasting your time.
Diversify Your Experiences
Probably the best way to more deeply diversify your experiences is by living abroad, which generally isn't plausible for people deep into their careers. If it is possible, though, even staying just a few months in a completely different culture will provide a wealth of eye-opening experience.
If, like most people, you simply can't afford to take off and live in another country, you can still get some diversity in your home country and city by doing things that get you out of your routine like:
- attending classes or workshops for hobbies you never thought you'd be interested in
- trying different types of ethnic food
- hosting an exchange student or international guests in your home
- volunteering with organizations in different parts of the world
- watching foreign movies
- visiting museums with exhibits with an international focus
- dating someone from a different culture (if you're available, of course)
- reading books written by international authors
- reading history or travel books about a different culture
- watching documentaries about different countries and cultures
Stepping out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to new ways of thinking will help you create those dots and lines you need to come up with a unique and profitable business idea. Get out there and diversify yourself.