Generating your business idea


There is no standard way of generating ideas – in fact there are lots of different ways. Below, we offer one of the best methods of generating ideas and also offer a range of sources full of ideas to stimulate your thinking.

Following this will be an assignment to generate your own shortlist. Then the next unit will discuss a way of selecting your first choice and an assignment where you will actually go through this process and make the choice. It is important to follow this two step process as if you start to try and evaluate your ideas while still in brainstorming mode, you will definitely end up  missing plenty of  great possibilities.

Before we start, remember what we said in the introduction video to this section. You need to find your sweet spot:

Idea selection rationaleThat is the intersection of four areas:

  • 1. Things that you are passionate about

2. Areas where you have a strong competency (or at least can build one); or resources you have or to which you have access

3. A real problem that needs a solution (or a better solution than currently exists)

4. A business concept that can generate the type of income / lifestyle / fame / independence / …  that you want.


So how do you do carry out the idea generation process?



There are 5 steps and we offer a simple example of an output on the right.
Note: below we advise several ways of actually doing the exercise, including using a free digital tool:

Step one: write down your goals.
Examples:do you want a business that will generate a little income to help you through university or do you want to solve a world problem like hunger (probably, it is somewhere in between)?

Step two: is to think about your passions. What are the things you really enjoy doing? What drives you? What makes you really animated when you are talking about it? Brainstorm them – that is simply write them down without thinking too hard about each one.
Examples: playing hockey; listening to music; painting; travelling.

Step three: is to consider your competencies and resources.

3 (a)What do you do well?
Examples: being good at maths; making friends; telling a good joke; solving puzzles; fixing bicycles.
3(b) What resources are available to you.
Examples such as owning a bicycle, access to a library, a smart phone, …. anything that might be useful in starting a business.+

Once again brainstorm without spending too much time evaluating them. More is good!

Hint: if you can find something that you like doing that the average person does not like, it can be a good place to start. For instance, Paul Graham of Y Combinator explains how his father likes mathematics, which many people do not. Those things that “don’t feel like work” to you, but do to others, can lead you to some great ideas.

Step four: is to think about un-solved problems that exist in any of these areas – passions, competencies, resources – and especially those that you suffer from (solving your own problem is often where great businesses originate!). Make a list of those problems.
Example: not being able to find a hockey field to practice on; not having transport to reach a venue.

Step five: think about what solutions could you create to solve one of the problems.

To help you get in the right frame of mind, have a look at our “idea sparking” section below. Spend some time seeing what other people are doing.+

Idea sparking:
Simply start searching for “business ideas” on Google. Here are some links to get you going (the ideas range from banal to quite interesting):+

Another source of ideas is new concepts that are currently being launched. I am not saying that you should copy them, but they might trigger something for you. Great sources are crowdfunding  and new product idea sites. Some examples are:+