So where is the Magic?
The hunt for startup ideas is often portrayed as pure magic. The thing is, in today's society we are trained to see things as they've alwasy been done and to not look for new methods. We are told to focusd on one particular task, so we spend a TON of time becoming an expert at this task. While this promotes value and efficiency, it does not encourage thinking outside the box or process improvement.
We just don't take the time that we should to step back from our current task, re-evaluate, and see if there are ways to improve.
Our society as a whole is not trained to look for new ideas. Somewhere down the line we were told to grow up and get real by taking on responsibilities (see why you shouldn't do this) and focusing our efforts on a single task or skill.
What does this mean?
Despite societal expectations and training, there is still hope that we can recapture the magic that is coming up with ideas. In the words of my father, we need to:
Practice Practice Practice
Seriously though, we need to retrain our brains to notice real-world problems. You may not be good at it initially, heck, I'm still not good at it and I've been spending the last year working to reframe the way I look at processes and ideas!
My friend and former Iron Yard Instructor, Mason, told me that he spends most of his time pacing in his living room. Sometimes he'll do this for 2+ hours, not speaking or writing anything down, just thinking and pacing. At first, I thought this was a little odd, but then I realized that this was his way of looking at problems from a differnt angle to find new and innovative solutions. While I'm not necessarily advocating you take this approach, I am suggesting you find a scenario that allows you to look at your own problems through a fresh lens.
Strategies for Coming up with Startup ideas
Creating the magic can be challenging, so I've made a list of a few strategies. One is my own, another is from Paul Graham (By now you should be noticing that I think this guy is a great resource), and then another is from Brad Feld. Brad is actually coming out with a book in March of 2015 specifically on the subject of coming up with ideas and validating them in March; you should check it out.
Strategy 1: Solve your own problem
You've probably heard this before. Essentially, the goal is to solve a problem you yourself are faced with. Sounds pretty simple. The problem is that the low hanging fruit, so to speak, has already been taken. I'm not saying there aren't new ideas to be had, but most of the obvious ones have already been used.
Strategy 2: Live in the future
This is an interesting one that I learned from Paul Graham. So, What the heck does it mean to "live in the future?" It requires you to be at the forefront of an industry, seeing the innovations firsthand. As you watch problems being solved with through these breakthroughs, you may also begin to see where these new solutions have problems of their own. This creates fertile ground for your startup idea. This is the strategy I used in my experiment. Stay tuned beacuse I'll be revealing my idea in the next article.
Strategy 3: Shifting focus
Last but not least, is my own strategy. As I mentioed earlier, we are trained by our culture to settle into a particular job or field, and specialize. It seems to me however, that there is opportunity in diverse experiences. What if you take the skills and problems solving from one career and move to a completely different field. I don't just mean a different job but truely a new career. Chances are you will bring fresh perespective and perhaps begin to see deficiencies or problems waiting to be solved in both your new and old field. You just have to be aware. Your new field may be struggling with a problem that has been long since solved in your old one or vice versa. By just stepping outside of the box into something unfamiliar, you may come face to face with your startup idea.
Do you believe in magic?
I hope so. The magic is at your fingetips; startup ideas are there for the taking.
Next up on the blog, I will walk through the strategies I used to settle on my own startup idea.
As always, I'd love to hear your questions, comments, and topic suggestions!