The Remarkably Simple Way to Brainstorm New Business Ideas

A few steps are all you need to get you to a creative place where ideas flow.

My wife and I decided to invest our time and money in a new business opportunity after brainstorming ideas for a few weeks. The idea we settled on is fantastic, and the beautiful thing is we can start small and work our way up.

I wish I thought of it.

It was 8 pm, and I was relaxing while I caught up on my reading. After I get the baby to go to sleep, and my wife is in the office teaching English to her students, I have free time where I can afford to rest my feet and let my mind absorb what I’m reading.

If the baby won’t go to sleep, or my wife isn’t working, my night is full.

I had just tucked into another 7-minute read when my phone dinged. It was my wife who was preparing for her classes.

She had an idea.

Five minutes later, I forgot my reading, and I was already researching this great new idea.

Here is the reason I mentioned this:

I am a long-time entrepreneur (wantrepreneur?), and I pride myself on being an idea machine. I fill notebooks with scribbles of business plans and diagrams. In the last few weeks, I’ve brainstormed five business ideas and tossed them away for being too complicated or expensive to start.

I didn’t expect that my brainiac of a wife would drop an idea of such epic proportions in my lap. I was surprised.

That is the thing: you never know when a good idea will fall in your lap, so you have to be ready all the time.

The simple part of brainstorming is being ready to document an idea when inspiration strikes; the rest is a bit more complicated.

How to Brainstorm Business Ideas

We shouldn’t take a scattershot approach by starting with a murky goal in mind like most of us do. It reminds me of the startup days when clueless heads of every department would sit around a conference table eating bagels and drinking coffee while arguing over the direction a project should take.

According to Professor Ralph Keeney, from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, who wrote a paper about decision analysis, we should break brainstorming up into four steps.

Step 1: Layout the problem

Before you try to come up with solutions, you better know what the problems are. So in the case of coming up with a business idea, you want to outline all the needs and wants that a business should solve.

In the case of my wife and me, our list was simple. The business we start must:

  • Have low startup costs
  • Operate in profit within a few months
  • Be a product, not a service
  • Be something that both my wife and I could do together
  • Incorporate our hobbies and interests, so we could enjoy what we were doing
  • Use the knowledge and experience we already have to ensure the business was successful
  • Take the pandemic into account, because not every business will work in the new normal we live in now
  • Have customers already willing to buy
  • Have low marketing costs
  • Not be labor-intensive

It may seem like a big list and too much to ask for, but we stayed positive and molded these problems into an image of a solution we wanted in our mind.

Step 2: Identify the objectives of a possible solution

Come up with as much detail as you can about a possible solution to your list of problems, or in our case, needs and wants:

  • We knew we could save money if we started something that involved a hobby we already had. We could save more if in manufacturing the product could use skills we already possessed and didn’t have to pay someone else to do the work. We would also conduct all business in our home, so we didn’t have to rent another location to do business.
  • Use our knowledge of local Facebook groups and bartering networks to our advantage instead of paying for marketing. We would use social media instead of advertising or paying for a retail location with lots of foot traffic.
  • Working from home and including our kids in the business would not only teach them valuable lessons but ensure that we would have time to spend working on our business.
  • Rely on word of mouth from our family here in the Philippines to get the word out about our product.

We knew we could save a lot of money if we used our heads and thought about what we already had that people around us needed and wanted right now.

Step 3: Find solutions individually

After a lot of talking and going over options, my wife and I went our separate ways and started ruminating. I must have come up with a hundred ideas, but only a few of them were worthwhile.

My wife stressed about the whole thing a lot less than I did, and that is why she came up with the idea. They say “a watched pot never boils,” and if you are always racking your brain about the problem, your mind will never have time to be creative.

Ease up on yourself and forget about the problem for a while. It may be that the solution will pop in your head.

Now, if you are alone in brainstorming, you can stop on this step, but if you are part of a group like we were, now is the time to come together.

Step 4: Work on a solution as a team

After my wife, Flora, dropped the idea we started working together on it. I have been trying for years to get her interested in working on something with me, and all it took was some creative brainstorming to find an idea we both want to do.

When you come together as a group, don’t anchor on one thing too much. In the case of Flora and I, we sent texts back and forth all day, coming up with new ideas to support her main idea, and kept it very loose.

Now, we have a plan that is much better than anything I’ve ever thought of on my own, and we are starting work on building our new business.

Have a Plan

Before you start brainstorming, take some time to follow these steps, and you are guaranteed a better result.

Remember to define and lay out the problem and then address the solutions. And when you do come up with THE AWESOME IDEA, make sure you document everything, so you don’t forget anything you come up with in brainstorming.

You can, and you will find a new business idea as we did. You have to be a bit creative.

I know the last thing you want is another newsletter clogging up your inbox, but if you liked what you read here today, and you want to get exclusive (content), I promise I’ll never bore you. It’s called Beautifully Broken, and it may change your life!

Introverted essayist and creator- I am doing it my way and it might take a bit longer. Don't wait up!

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