How to become your own best business idea generator

All the good ideas have been taken!

This is an often-heard complaint that is about as far from the truth as the earth is from Alpha Centauri.

The problem is that we live in such a stimulus-rich environment that it dulls our imaginations. John Steinbeck said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

Steinbeck’s wisdom is the key to turning yourself into a business idea generator: Once you start down the road of generating business ideas, you’ll find that it’s easier to generate more and more. The problem is that we need to get into the habit of thinking and recording our thoughts in ways that promote becoming a business idea generator.

Here are seven habits to adopt if you know that there’s a great business idea out there for you, but you just haven’t come up with it yet.

1. Probe your family and friends. If you have kids, you’ve probably asked them something like, “What did you learn in school today?” and they responded by either staring back blankly at you or rolling their eyes…especially if they had hit their teen years. Instead, find out about the problems they have, the things that really annoy them. Talk about the products they use. For example, what don’t they like about the backpack they tote around all day?

Do the same with your friends and other family members. When they start to talk about hassles they’ve experienced, take note and probe more deeply. Sometimes the best business idea is simply doing something better than everyone else.

2. Read bad reviews. Scour bad Amazon and Yelp reviews, and reviews at any site that offers products or services that interest you. As I said above, sometimes a great business idea is making changes that sufficiently refine a product or service to make it far more attractive to consumers. That’s why In-N-Out Burger has lines that stretch out the door even in neighborhoods where one or more of the other big burger chains have restaurants.

3. Examine your hobbies or interests. What needs to be created to increase the enjoyment of your hobby or special interest area. A friend of mine is an avid fly fisherman and he used to regularly buy books from a catalog that specialized in fly fishing books, both fiction and nonfiction. In that case, the simple act of curation created a business.

4. Travel to places unlike your home town. If you live in the heartland, go to somewhere like Los Angeles, where trends are often born. The ideas behind local startups there, are likely to find their way to your community someday soon.

Go overseas and find products or styles that you think would sell in your town or on the Internet. Or, find markets for something produced in your community and then start an export business. I heard about one woman who was simply buying inexpensive clothing off eBay and sending them to a relative in Bolivia for reselling. American products are always in high demand around the world.

5. Keep tabs on Google trends. Although many of today’s popular search terms are tied into pop culture events that come and go quickly, you can sometimes start to sense the need for products or services. Right now, Facebook privacy issues are hot. One of the problems with privacy in modern life is that we have hundreds of privacy statements and settings that we’ve agreed to. How about a service that scans all your privacy settings and agreements and tells you in plain English what your vulnerabilities are?

6. Follow the news. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on where society is going by keeping up with the daily news. I’ve heard that bullet-proof backpacks for students have become popular after the tragic school shootings we have had. Don’t just react to the news, analyze it in terms of what kinds of problems it is creating for people and how you might be able to solve one or more of those problems.

7. Keep a list of your ideas that is available 24-7. The most worthless idea in the world is the great idea you thought of and then forgot. An efficient business idea generator must have a way to effectively capture the ideas.

These seven strategies will help you become your own best business idea generator. However, if you need something right now – especially a low cost home-based business – you should check out our list of 80 home-based businesses.

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