5 ways to brainstorm ideas for startups

5 ways to brainstorm ideas for startups

In many ways, the term “brainstorming” has come to be rather vague in the modern world. For many people, the concept simply refers to a person, or a group of people, sitting down to come up with ideas. While this is partially true, good brainstorming tends to be far more structured, and seeks to provide beneficial answers to important areas of consideration.

If you are seeking startup business ideas, then utilising the power of good brainstorming is essential. Random ideas that emerge during solo, uncontrolled brainstorming or discussions with a business partner may potentially be useful, but these ideas are likely to lack the essential structure that true brainstorming provides. Below, we’ve provided five different techniques to help shape your startup brainstorming sessions, all of which should help to deliver the best possible results.

Before we begin…

It is important to note that brainstorming for business startup ideas tends to require the identification of a problem. The best businesses seek to resolve problems, be that for businesses, groups of people, or individuals.

You need to have a firm idea of the problem you are hoping to solve before you begin. Without this problem, brainstorming can become incredibly scattered, rather than following a clear linear path. The problem can be extremely niche: for example: “people dislike having to search for open Wifi networks when they’re in public”. Alternatively, the problem could be more broad: “people are too stressed in the modern world”.

With the identification of this problem, you have the central theme that you can then brainstorm around.

You can brainstorm without a problem that you are seeking to solve with your business, but it is liable to be far more scattered than is ideal. At the end of the day, all businesses need to be genuinely useful to a section of society, and creating a business that solves a problem is the simplest way to achieve this.

So, without further ado, let’s look at the brainstorming tactics that can assist you in the formulation of a startup idea…

#1 - Asking “why?”

One of the key components of finding the right startup idea is to resolve a problem that either businesses or customers experience. If you can plug a needs gap, then you should be able to ensure that your business is always in demand.

First, however, you need to identify the existence of the gap. Asking “why?” can be a surprisingly useful way to do this. Think of a problem that businesses or the general populace have to deal with, then ask yourself: “why does this happen?”

When you have answered the first “why”, you can ask it again of the answer: “why does this happen?”

For example, here’s how this would work if brainstorming to create the concept of a TV remote control:

Problem: people having to get up to change the channel.

Why does this happen?
Answer: because there is no way to change the channel remotely.

Why does this happen?
Answer: because the technology does not exist to understand how to change the channel remotely.

Why does this happen?
Answer: because there are technological barriers that need to be overcome…

… a business startup idea could then be formulated around addressing those technical barriers, overcoming them, and ultimately, inventing a useful product that everyone needs

#2 - Starbursting

Starbursting is a very simple brainstorming technique that allows you to explore all the contributing factors to the problem you are seeking to solve.

  • Create a six-pointed star.
  • At the centre of the star, write a problem that businesses or consumers are facing (for example: “the process of buying online is too complex” or “production times in construction businesses are often subject to delays”)
  • The remaining five points of the star should be labelled: who, what, when, where, and why - i.e. “who causes the problem?”, “what is the problem?”, “when is the problem most likely to happen?” and so on.
  • Seek to answer all these questions, adding them to the relevant section of the star as you go, to ascertain how the problem might be solved.
  • You can then study your conclusions for common ground, which should help to formulate a well-rounded startup idea that can address multiples causes of the same problem

#3 - Mind mapping

Mind mapping is one of the oldest forms of brainstorming, and one that will look familiar. Essentially, you use a pen and paper to draw relationships between individual ideas, following one thought to another.

So, you could start with a problem that businesses or consumers experience, which you write down and place in its own section. You then connect that section to another thought; for example, why the problem is so concerning, or what the previous attempts at solving the problem have achieved. You then continue, mapping each related thought, so that at the end of the brainstorming session, you have a visual representation of all the ideas that have been discussed. This ensures that should you wish to revisit an idea to develop it further, you can clearly trace how you arrived at it, and how it relates to the other issues you discussed.

#4 - Teleporting storming

Teleporting storming sounds a little more dramatic than it actually is, but it’s still a useful technique for those wishing to make the most of their brainstorming. This form of brainstorming can be done solo, but is best done in a group in order to gain a fuller perspective.

The concept of teleporting storming is very simple. You begin by thinking of that all-important problem you want to be able to solve with your business. Then, you imagine how you would deal with that problem if you were at a different point in time. How would your business idea be different if you were shaping it in 10 years time, or 100 years ago? Would you come to a completely different conclusion if you were coming up with ideas on a beach, rather than at a desk?

By stepping away from your immediate surroundings and examining different perspectives, your business startup ideas should become more dynamic and flexible, rather than being restrained by the confines of the modern business world alone.

#5 - Reverse storming

Reverse storming is an intriguing technique, and one that is usually used to enhance the techniques discussed above. With conventional brainstorming, you seek solutions for problems. Reverse storming asks you to do that, but then to create a solution that is entirely different - a solution that is, if possible, a direct opposite to the one you originally thought was suitable.

For example:

Problem: modern people are too stressed.

Your brainstormed solution: people need a service that allows them to discuss stress management with a professional from the comfort of their own home.

Your reverse brainstormed solution: people need better access to stress management as part of their everyday working lives, and should not have to go to appointments or talk online to obtain this.

In conclusion

Brainstorming is an art, and one that requires an element of structure in order to produce the best results. By experimenting with the techniques listed above, you should be able to ensure that your brainstorming is as effective as it can possibly be, and gives you a head-start with your business plans.


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