When trying to come up with new business ideas, you need to have diversity in your life, which includes knowing a wide-ranging group of people who will help you foster new ways of looking at the world and open your eyes to new opportunities.
Here are some tips on finding people outside your immediate circle who are good to listen to so you can get more seeds that might grow into business ideas:
1. Tradeshows and Conferences
If you are lucky enough to live in a city that has a convention center, you should use that opportunity. Look at the calendar of events to identify some that might interest you and go. Chatting with exhibitors and talking to other attendees can help you understand things about an industry that would otherwise take you a long time to research. Ask questions, listen and look for additional resources.
2. Business Groups
I am talking about organizations like chambers of commerce, trade associations, local meet up groups of a particular profession or business subject. Unlike professional organizations that require membership fees or professional accreditation, simple meet up groups are a great place to start.
3. Professional Development Organizations
These organizations can help you develop yourself by allowing you to associate with other people who have a similar mindset of improving themselves. A successful example of these kinds of organizations are mastermind groups. These groups are not a class or a networking group. Instead they are platforms that can offer a great combination of peer accountability, education and creative thinking in a supportive environment. A mastermind group can help you develop your professional and personal skills at the same time. Another organization that can introduce you to interesting people is Toastmasters International.
4. Service and Civic Organizations
These are groups like Rotary International, Kiwanis or Lions. These groups are dedicated to serving both their local communities, as well as undertaking international endeavors like eradicating certain diseases.
I do not recommend joining these groups unless you really want to enlist for serving the main purpose(s) of the group. (If you really do want to support the many great causes they stand for, definitely join.) But, even if you don't want to enroll in them, you should at least go to some of their events as a guest to learn more about what they do and meet interesting people from diverse backgrounds.
5. Business Networking Events
Each city with more than a few thousand people should have multiple business organizations that hold business networking events. These events can cover a variety of subjects like investment, software, biotech or franchising. There are expensive ones and inexpensive ones, boring ones and not-so-boring ones and, of course, there are those weird ones, i.e. "Keep Austin Weird."
Going to these meetings without any specific agenda like selling something, looking for a job or finding an investor is a great advantage, especially if you ask smart questions and are ready to genuinely listen to people. You will expand your world by meeting many people who could potentially bring a lot of value to your life.
6. Self-Improvement Events
There is nothing like being around people that want to improve themselves and are open to suggestions to do so. That is why I love these events. I compare it to running a marathon versus running on a treadmill in your home. Sure, you could run the equivalent of a marathon on a treadmill inside your home, but the chances of doing so are slim because there are no other people around to keep you motivated. But, when you are at an actual marathon, there are tons of people vying for the same goal you are, which keeps you motivated and inspired.
It's the same kind of motivation and inspiration you find at self-improvement events. When you are surrounded by people who all share your goal of self-improvement, it's much easier to get into that mindset of making yourself a better person. And all the speakers and other people you meet and get the opportunity to listen to will be a bonus. Keep in mind that this only really applies to the events you go to in person. The online ones just don't have that same atmosphere (in fact, they really don't have any atmosphere).
Diversifying the range of people you interact with can open you up to a whole host of new viewpoints and information that can turn into seeds of thoughts that will (hopefully) lead to you coming up with a great business idea. At the very least, you will meet some amazing people and expand your knowledge, so it will be worth it no matter what.