As an entrepreneur, ideas are king. Without the constant flow of fresh and original ideas, you might find yourself in a position where your business stagnates.
But where can you find these great ideas?
It’s not just about being smart and knowing the industry, it’s also about being open-minded and willing to try new things. If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or confused, we’ve gathered a list of useful practices that can help you tap into your creativity and find the inspiration you need. Your next big idea could be just around the corner, and these methods could be just what you need to go up and grab it.
1. Browse Inspiring Websites
You’re going to spend time online today. In fact, you’re likely to spend seven hours or more online, according to a recent study. Instead of playing games or flipping through social media feeds for a mind-numbing hour, why not spend some time on a website that may spark your next great idea?
If you don’t know any such websites or your favorites just aren’t cutting it these days, we have some suggestions.
Think of Springwise as a catalog of innovation. The website houses a massive Innovation Library that includes over 11,000 innovations spanning more than 20 years and multiple countries. You will also find timely articles announcing new apps and technologies alongside educational content that may get you thinking.
Sometimes, the best way to come up with your own idea is to bounce off others’, and you’d be hard-pressed to find many places with a greater collection of ideas than Springwise.
You can use TrendWatching as a free website that provides a daily innovation and monthly trend highlight, but it’s much more than that. If you subscribe to the paid platform, you can access a database of more than 28,000 innovations and gain insight into what might transform your industry in the future.
This is a website aimed at businesses, but it’s perfect for those with the entrepreneurship mindset as well. Not only can learning about current and past innovations spark new ideas, but it can help you future-proof your next venture from the start.
Step away from the innovation for a moment and sink into pop culture. Dig into inspiring stories about animals and humans alike. Spend a moment staring at an unusual picture or two.
Bored Panda is a great option for when you need to take a break and take your mind off the seriousness of life for a moment. Creativity strikes when our mind is allowed to wander, so it may just set the perfect conditions to spark a brand new idea.
Brand New is all about brand identity critiques. Flip through some of the most recent logos presented by brands around the world. The goal is to see how others are branding their companies, but the visuals may stimulate some ideas for you, especially if you’re also doing your work with other inspirational tips on this list.
2. Read Inspirational Books
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe reading is one of the most important habits you can develop as an entrepreneur. I wrote about it in my own book The Hard Work Myth as well as a previous article sharing my Seven Essential Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read This Year. But with so many exceptional books out there, one list isn’t enough! Here are some more inspiring titles we highly recommend for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, productivity, and time management.
Author: Matt Watkinson
"The Grid" is all about planning, analyzing, organizing, and increasing productivity for businesses of all sizes. Some content will guide you toward coming up with and analyzing new product and service ideas. You’ll also read about anticipating changes in your industry and adjusting now.
Author: Jocelyn K. Glei
"Make Your Mark" is a small book that can have a big impact on a budding or expanding entrepreneur. It’s a collection of startup wisdom straight from the mouths of successful business minds.
Author: Lu Li
Sixty-six successful female entrepreneurs wrote letters of advice for others following in their shoes. Read all those letters and potentially spark your own ideas in this unique inspirational book.
Author: Chris Guillebeau
Read the stories behind successful side hustles established by ordinary people just like you. Not only can you get some ideas for potential side hustles or businesses of your own, but the stories may drive you to act and start something new sooner rather than later. Why wait?
Author: Allen Gannett
"The Creative Curve" explores how creative ideas are born through everyday people and how you can develop the right idea and turn it into a breakout success in any industry. You’ll have a deeper understanding of creativity at the end, and that may help you generate that next big idea.
Author: Michael Michalko
Explore a variety of thinking tools and strategies proven to generate fresh ideas and even turn ideas you already have into even better or more abundant ideas. This is a hands-on book that you don’t have to read chapter by chapter. Explore one Thinkertoy today and another tomorrow. Some will become a permanent way of thinking and problem-solving in your daily life.
3. Play with Tools and Tech that Spark Inspiration
There’s an app for everything, right? Technology has given us an abundance of tools that can help spark inspiring ideas. Let’s look at a couple that we recommend for entrepreneurs searching for one big idea to launch them into their next venture.
If you’re a visual person, then grab a Nix Mini Color Sensor and give yourself permission to play with color. Simply point the sensor over any color that inspires you in the real world. It will connect with your phone, tablet, or another digital device and display the corresponding digital color code. You can find unique colors for your next website, landing page, or social media header.
Download a simple app that provides one writing prompt daily. You spend up to 15 minutes writing a response, and who knows what ideas you might come up with as you improve your writing skills.
This simple website presents one creativity prompt each time you refresh the page. If one doesn’t speak to you, just reload to see what comes up next. The brightly colored pages may also trigger creative thinking as you work through multiple prompts.
4. Visit Locations Destined to Inspire
We’ve all heard of people jotting great ideas down on napkins, paper towels, and other random pieces of paper. Those random pieces of paper are needed because many of the best ideas come when you’re out living your life. That’s why putting yourself in new surroundings is one of the best ways to spark fresh ideas.
Where exactly should you go? We have a few suggestions, but it’s ultimately your path to pick.
A Supermarket or Shopping Mall
Hear me out on this one! When it comes to sparking that initial seed of an idea, one of the best things you can do is surround yourself with a wide range of stimuli. With numerous aisles and shelves packed with such a vast range of items, I bet you’d struggle to find a greater collection of different stimuli all in one place than your humble local supermarket. Who knew your regular grocery shopping trip could be the perfect place for a brainstorming session?
And have you ever gone to a large mall on a busy Saturday and just sat on a bench? Watching people live unfiltered is another valuable way to see problems that you can potentially solve. It’s also a great way to gain a better understanding of how humans behave and interact at different ages and in different locations.
If you’re looking for ways to get away from your regular office with its confining walls and flat, white walls, the lobby of an upscale, boutique hotel is always one of my go-to recommendations for entrepreneurs. It’s a space that brings together successful people with others on the rise. You can learn about the industry from these types of people through casual conversation, and possibly make a connection that could be beneficial to your future.
Many establishments don’t require a booking for you to spend time in the lobby, so why not bring your laptop and enjoy a coffee while soaking up your surroundings?
The Opposite of Normal
Where do you normally spend your time? Go somewhere that is quite different in at least a few ways.
If you live in a big city, head out to a cabin tucked deep in the mountains. Do you spend most of your time at the office? Get away for a beach vacation and spend your time outdoors. If you’re always secluded in the quiet of a home office, perhaps it’s time to visit the big city of your choice.
5. Tap into Professional Inspiration Sources
As a business owner, regardless of your industry, sources of inspiration for innovation can be closer than you think.
Look for Problems
It’s generally good advice to look on the bright side and find the silver lining in every cloud. But if you want to find ideas that real people may pay money to access, then you need to identify pain points and problems. Train your brain to look for them, and you will see them everywhere.
Support or IT emails and messages can clue you in on problem points in your business. What isn’t working well right now, and how could you possibly solve those problems?
Conversations with Employees and Clients
Pay attention to your own conversations and keep your ears open for conversations happening around you. When you hear someone complain or mention something they’d love to change, take notes. When you notice one problem or struggle surfaces regularly, then you have a problem that many people may pay to have solved.
6. Inspire Yourself!
We saved the best for last here. You could be the best resource you have for business idea generation. Let’s look at a few ways you can leverage your own experiences, thoughts, problems, and skills to come up with that next amazing idea.
Yourself in Lists
Grab a notebook or open a blank word processor document. It’s time to start recreating yourself in list form. Create these lists in brainstorming fashion, which means you simply write down anything and everything that comes to mind without thinking too deeply or striking out “bad” ideas. You can set a timer if you want to restrain your mind, or just let it wander until the ideas stop naturally.
Lists about yourself that may generate ideas include:
- Personal skills
- Professional skills
- What makes you happy
- What makes you sad
- What makes you angry
- Things to learn
- Gratitude lists
- Biggest regrets
- Biggest accomplishments
- Favorite books
Come up with a few additional list ideas for yourself. The idea is to see yourself in list form and then look for ideas that repeat throughout the lists. You can also combine elements from different lists to come up with ideas.
Journaling and Tracking
If listing doesn’t do it for you, consider purchasing a journal and putting pen to paper daily. Julia Cameron recommends writing Morning Pages before you get your day started. You simply write three pages by hand, allowing whatever comes to mind fall onto the page. Many writers and artists swear by this process to get their creative juices flowing.
You may also want to simply carry a notebook with you and jot down things you see or record everything you do each day. You could keep an exercise journal, gratitude journal, or food journal. You’re looking for inspiration in your everyday life, so there are no wrong ways to do this.
Ideas Don’t Wait
You never know where that one big idea is hiding. We bet it’s somewhere in your life right now, but you haven’t discovered it yet. Perhaps you have thought of it before, but you haven’t realized its magic yet.
Either way, we encourage you to do something different today. In the words of Stephen Covey, “To achieve goals you've never achieved before, you need to start doing things you've never done before.” Pick a chapter out of an inspiring book and read it before going to bed. Find a recipe online and make something different for dinner. Plan a trip across town to the new mall you’ve never explored.
Get out and live your life with a notebook in your back pocket. Ideas are abundant, but they won’t wait for you. Get out there and find them.