What is the most difficult thing in business?
Scouting for investors, getting around competitors or fending off taxation is difficult – but these are all necessary huddles. The most difficult thing for an entrepreneur is finding an idea for which they want to work hard 24 hours a day – a business idea that will not only inspire you, but also inspire others; and grow into a viable business for many generations. To generate such ideas, you don’t need to be an Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos; you only need to be observant, identify solvable problems, and create solutions that people will be willing to pay for.
In this article, we did not give ready-made ideas; we did better – revealed how to get an endless list of business options. You will learn how to create, generate and test start-up ideas.
How Does the Start-Up Idea Differ From Traditional Business?
A start-up is a company that tests non-traditional business models in order to increase margins or lower the entry threshold to the market. Only in this case, you use unusual ways of development, and there is a need for hypotheses and checks. In all other cases, there is nothing to invent – competent professionals, affordable capital and proven strategies will show the results. Simply put, a start-up in measured efforts should generate more revenues than a traditional business model. When the results are comparable, this is similar to getting via the reverse approach.
Four Ways to Generate Competitive Business Ideas
If you desire to turn the economy around and come up with something brand new and, importantly, useful – here’s a cheat sheet. The great thing about these business-ideas-generating techniques is that the results that depend only on your ingenuity, positive outlook and zeal. In addition, these ideas are likely to be relevant and rewarding in all places and at all times regardless of the people involved.
Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TIPS)
The theory of inventive problem solving was developed by the Soviet scientist, Heinrich Altshuller. He analyzed over 40,000 inventions and developed his own algorithms, following which one can find unconventional solutions to seemingly desperate situations. In fact, he came up with the secret of being a made-to-order genius.
The entrepreneur is also an inventor.
The theory of inventive problem solving helps to create inventions, since its methods lead to solutions through the escalation and elimination of contradictions. A start-up ideally suits the inventive component of TIPS – it finds solutions in order to get benefits, and then replicates its results to the greatest possible number of consumers. The TIPS combines 40 different algorithms and helps to pump existing solutions to simpler, less resource-intensive ones or the solutions with higher utility rates.
For example, a toothbrush is globally needed – so your teeth do not hurt. Having arranged the bristles at an angle, they begin to remove particles of food. You can also clean the tongue with a soft turn. A flexible gap makes the head float and more gentle. Special impregnation helps whiten the teeth. All this is still a brush, but each time it cleans the mouth a little bit better, solving the problem more effectively.
Some TIPS Methods
- Taking out: Separate an interfering part or property from an object (a problem needed to be solved). Separate the noise of frightened birds in order to scare them off over the airport.
- Asymmetry: It is customary to make machines and various mechanisms symmetrical. Breaking the symmetry, you can figure out a vice with curved lips to clamp the elongated vertical objects or asymmetrical headlights: the right one shines farther and the left one illuminates only a small section of the road so as not to blind oncoming cars.
- Universality: For example, a tanker that pushes oil into gasoline while driving from point A to point B.
- The other way around: Turn the process ‘upside down’. Clean rust from the machine part by the part itself instead of moving a grinding wheel.
- Break-through: We speed up a part of the process to the maximum speed, like a knife, which quickly cuts soft parts so that they do not have time to deform.
Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
Have you ever sat down with a laptop in order to come up with a new business idea, product or solution to a long-standing problem; and ended up fixing a dripping tap instead? There are times when your thinking becomes chaotic – and this is quite normal. But to achieve serious results, Edward de Bono suggested breaking up the thinking into six modes – focusing only on one of them at a particular time, to solve a specific problem.
To make the clearer, a colored hat was invented for each regime.
- Blue hat (management and coordination): It is placed in the beginning to designate the strategy and control the process periodically along the way of thinking.
- White hat (information and facts): Analyze what data are missing and where they can be found. One should also be certain of information and facts, unless some figures are already outdated and whether the statistics correspond to reality.
- Red hat (emotions and feelings): Make statements based on your personal experience and preferences; the regime is suitable for evaluating design and aesthetic side of the solution.
- Black hat (critical thinking): Possible risks, hazards and obstacles are revealed. The hat inhibits the flow of consciousness of a red hat, but you can’t wear it before the red one in order not to spoil the creative fuse.
- Yellow hat (optimism): Positive expectations and assumptions.
- Green hat (creativity): Unusual creative ideas and even provocative decisions. A flight of thought, which is often used after the black hat to find an interesting solution to the outlined problems.
To ensure that the solutions and features of the hats do not contradict one another and, most importantly, do not cut the overall effectiveness of brainstorming, Bono’s technique implies different orders for putting on the hats:
- Initial Ideas: Blue, White, Green, Blue.
- Choosing between Alternatives: Blue, White, (Green), Yellow, Black, Red, Blue.
- Identifying Solutions: Blue, White, Black, Green, Blue.
- Quick Feedback: Blue, Black, Green, Blue.
- Strategic Planning: Blue, Yellow, Black, White, Blue, Green, Blue.
- Process Improvement: Blue, White, White (opinions of other participants), Yellow, Black, Green, Red, Blue.
- Solving Problems: Blue, White, Green, Red, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue.
- Performance Review: Blue, Red, White, Yellow, Black, Green, Red, Blue
The abilities to unfold the usual train of thought by 180 degrees and catch the shyest members of the team off balance are the advantages of this method. The empty talk is excluded; the polar points of view do not conflict, but peacefully co-exist side by side.
Ideas Left To Be Noticed
Yuri Lifshitz from EarlyDays.io, says that creating ideas is a skill that requires training. But for that to happen, it is important to have the habit of seeing the opportunity to launch new businesses in everything that surrounds you. For example, start noticing people’s pains or problems and then try creating solutions to solve them. If you don’t like the slow elevator, create a faster one. Annoyed by a drunken neighbour? Think of a super-thin soundproofing device.
For this, Lifshitz offers several methods:
- Live in the future. Read science fiction, come up with something that did not exist yesterday, read about new inventions and think about the way of improving them.
- Reflect upon where you can get things for cheap and who can pay more for it. Developing countries offer cheap labour, and the Old and New Worlds are the money-bags with a stable economy. Make them friends or use them for your own purposes.
- Copy and develop. Borrow somebody’s idea. Borrow, and then make it a little better. Get up on your toes and look behind the fence. Sometimes, ideas slowly creep across the ocean for decades.
- Travel. Other people’s ways of life can be revolutionary in another country. Most importantly, it is different and you can test it. Communicate with clever people; stay open to others’ views.
Of course, in order to put the ideas into effect, one must be an expert. It’s not enough to be a romantic, armed with good intentions. To do business, you have to be the best professional in your industry. It is difficult, but only so the idea can be transformed into a guaranteed way to create your own strong company.
The Startup Idea Matrix
Brainstorming and weekly simulations are not for you? For such start-upers, Eric Stromberg developed a matrix with ideas. It describes consumer markets vertically and possible tactics horizontally. At the intersection, a possible exit strategy is obtained.
How to Test the Viability of the Idea
Ask yourself the question: How can your product or service stop people in their tracks? How much will their behavior change as a result of your product/service? If the effect is significant, that’s good. If your product turns out to not give you anything new, convenient, cheap or better; but you simply like it because it looks cool and repeats the existing solution, then it is advisable to reconsider launching it.
In order to understand this more, try substituting your idea into the following formula:
- [Some people or companies] are now spending money on [an object of expenditure].
- Our main competitor is [the company whose products are used most often or the usual way to spend money on it].
- We will replace the main competitor due to the fact that we will be better in [an important parameter for the consumer in this object of expenditure].
- We will achieve this due to the fact that [we do this differently, not like them].
If your idea fits into this formula, it has a chance to gain a foothold in the market. You should start field trials to check how much your “Frankenstein” is viable. To do this, we will have to conduct initial research and spearhead the customer’s first contacts with the product. This will help us understand whether it is in demand or doomed to failure. To test its viability, start-upers choose different marketing paths that may not always be right in the conventional sense.
Even if there are some necessary resources, it is better to refrain from creating the final version of the product. You can’t act on the principle of “let’s release it first, we will find the buyer later.” It is always more logical to create something there is a need for and release MVP for this purpose.
Image from the article “Your ultimate guide to Minimum Viable Product (MVP)“
MVP is stands for Minimal Viable Product.
MVP is the actual prototype of the final invention, but with minimum functions sufficient to check the product relevance among buyers. This is an important and indispensable stage, but you shouldn’t proceed without a minimal market analysis. Otherwise, you risk making a prototype that will satisfy the needs of developers, and not consumers.
Conduct a Survey
Conducting a survey is simple but not always a reliable option, especially if the survey is conducted among friends of the inner circle. In this case, one can’t avoid leading questions and subconscious grinding of a fancied idea. At this stage, interviewers often make the same mistake: they prepare closed questions and give respondents ready-made answers instead of listening to their experience.
Why are they so fond of closed questions? Because the closed question is the result of our second guessing. It’s closer to our opinion, which we subconsciously project onto the opponent. This is not very good, as the question should be open.
A special case of conversation using open questions is the “five why” strategy. The main task of this technique is to find out the root causes, understand why your potential customers don’t like your product and correctly work out their objections.
Five questions are consistently asked for that purpose:
- Why don’t you like the game? — It’s complicated.
- Why did you find it difficult? — I couldn’t beat the level.
- Why couldn’t you beat the level? — Not enough lives.
- Why didn’t you have enough lives? — I couldn’t buy enough pills.
- Why couldn’t you buy the pills? — Because it takes too long to collect gold.
A simple conclusion: Players refuse the game because it is too monotonous at the previous level, not because it’s complicated on the next one.
Create a Fake Landing
A landing page is a page focused on a targeted offer for a specific audience. It describes the product/service, explains the benefits and, contains a Call-To-Action button (buy; order; register for a test; leave data; get free consultations). Since the product is not yet available, the landing page will be fake. Keeping the basic principles, observe how much the customers are interested and how often they click on CTA-elements. The very same lending is done according to a proven scheme.
Next is domain registration. Create or buy the text description, make bright (real!) product photos, place noticeable CTA-buttons and capture forms. Also, connect analytics, set up advertising and analyze activity on the page, perform A/B testing. As a result, the logic of this check-up looks like this: “We will start working soon, leave us your contacts or click if you are interested.”
Read More: How To Create and Launch the Correct Fake Lane
Sometimes, fake landing strategy is presented as a smoke testing. The main thing is to develop a minimally viable proposal and find out the client’s response to real traffic. If there is a subscriber base, you can use an email-list instead of the landing since the same conditions apply.
Carry Out a Sprint Development
This method is excellent for those who slowly harness slower rides. Google and Slack use this method to test their products, the basic principle of which is stimulating a swift deadline and making the brain work 100%. The sprint is for 5 working days, when your team gets to choose a solution, makes a prototype and receives feedback from customers. To do this, the team usually includes the manager, specialists in finance and logistics, engineers and designers.
- On Monday, choose a long-term goal. Answer the questions “Why did we start the project?” and “Where do we want to be in six months or a year?” The goal is written on the board. Further on the left of the blackboard, write groups of clients, and on the right—the final goal (product purchase, subscription, registration). Between them, arrows denote all interactions.
Understanding how the customer interacts with the product raises questions about how these stages can be improved. The more, the better. At the end of Monday, select a target customer and target event that needs to be further customized. You will be working over these.
- Tuesday starts with finding solutions for the selected event. Each participant offers their ideas, picking them up from the head, stealing from a neighbor or other dissimilar industries. Ideally, you draw sketches that are three stages of interaction with the product for each solution.
- On Wednesday morning, vote for the best idea; begin to select respondents for the Friday test. By evening, a storyboard in the form of 10-15 frames should be ready. The most important moment is when a person looks at the screen-advertising product for the first time, following with landing and the icon in the AppStore.
- On Thursday, the drawn storyboard turns into a fast prototype. Do not try to create a real product or limit yourself to the façade, but create a convincing one in order to get a credible feedback. Use Marvel, InVision, Keynote, or PowerPoint to draw all the stages from the first to the last screen.
- On Friday, the interviewer works with the target audience, and the members of the team make notes about how the respondents react, whether everything is clear to them, or the problem was correctly identified at the beginning of the sprint.
What to Remember
- Do not try to get away from competition completely. Where there is no competition, there is likely no money.
- When coming up with an idea, analyze the already formed needs of people. See how they can be met faster, cheaper or more convenient.
- Do not repeat already existing products or services in the market.
- Use proven algorithms for brainstorming.
- Always check the minimum effectiveness of the solution before setting up a production line.
You are surrounded by opportunities. They are in the usual products and services, in familiar people and in yourself. However, brilliant ideas will not be born by themselves – for you will have to change yourself. Make it a habit to notice the unusual and contradictory; get a notebook for ideas and always carry it around with you; read a lot and travel a lot. Stop being blind to the surrounding things and brilliant ideas will not keep you waiting!
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