I often go to conventions and startup events just to see what's new.
The room is always full of people with ideas, and people asking "How did you come up with this idea?"
There is no doubt that great ideas have turned into many big things. Silicon Valley is never short of such stories.
But most people have been deluded by the fairytale of great ideas.
It seems that having great ideas is a myth, they either pop into your head like magic or they don't. Otherwise, how come we don't not see more people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, right?
So you see a bunch of college kids sitting around brainstorming, trying to come up a great idea really really hard.
I have seen it. When I got to know them better, I realized the one and only thing they were doing was trying to generate some great ideas. A year later, when I saw them again, they're still in search of THE GREAT IDEA.
That's really tragic. How many people are still searching for that one GREAT IDEA that they'll never find?
Maybe the reason why we think it's hard to have great ideas is because we assume we need a great idea to succeed.
But the facts tell a different story.
When you look around, many successful businesses didn't come from a mind-blowing idea, they're just ordinary businesses. How about Starbucks? Did it blow your mind when you see a place selling coffee? What about Domino's? Did people go crazy like they had no clue what a pizza was? But the difference is, Starbucks and Domino's turned an ordinary business into an extraordinary cash machine.
I suspect another reason why people tend to hunt down a great idea is because we hear too many "how a great idea made a guy a millionaire" type of stories, where many years of hard work is omitted, so suddenly it became an overnight success.
It's delusional to expect anything to happen without any real effort.
But I still don't have an idea, what now?
OK, maybe you want to do something but you don’t have an idea yet. So what! Most startups end up nothing like their original ideas anyway.
The point is to get started.
A few ways worked well for some successful entrepreneurs I know:
1. Find a "thing" you use and complain about on a regular basis.
In the plumbing industry, there's a thing called "Plumber's Crack". If you've ever had a plumber squat down in your house, there's no way you wouldn't notice his butt. (Many tried to look away...) Anyway, one company figured out a solution and built a business. (See note)
2. Find a Yellow Page book and go through all the categories. It's like a collection of ideas. Go through everyone else's ideas and you'll have a good start.
3. Check out startup events. It's easier to be inspired in a place filled with ideas.
I have too many ideas, how do I decide which one to develop?
If you can, pick the one that will affect people/your market immediately and doesn't take 5 years to develop a basic product so you can test it without declaring bankruptcy. Think about Facebook, it changed the way college kids keep in touch with each other. So it became an instant hit when it came out.
When You Have an Idea, Get It Out
It's better to get your ideas out, test, and tweak early in the process. And here's why:
Reason #1: The hardest part is to get started. Let's face it, people love to make excuses about why they haven’t done something. If every time I heard someone talking about a side-project they've planned to do for years but never did because he never had time, the timing wasn't good or his friends would laugh at him...I'd be depressed by now. So just do it.
Reason #2: It will save you time and money. This is absolutely critical. Many ideas will sound great in theory, but you’ll never know if they’re going to work. It may take months to just build your product. So why not start small or get a basic version of your product out in the market? You wouldn't waste your time, money and effort only to discover no one wants your product after months of work.
Many had great ideas, few made it work. Just go out and try to sell your thing (whatever that might be).
Ideas --including great ideas--are worthless when the market doesn't give a damn.
So go out and test it, only the market will tell.
Note: T-Shirt Company Cracks Down on Plumber’s Butt