The other day I sat down with a friend for lunch and he said after working for five years at Facebook, he is finally ready to start his own business.
"I'm really looking forward to this", he said "but I just don't know know yet what it's really going to be."
Although there are many things that he is actully interested in, at the end of the day he was not sure how to find this one idea worth working on that he wants to commit the next years of his life to.
Together we talked for about two hours on how one can get exposed to trends, problems and opportunities. Although we both agreed that there are many problems the world is facing right now – climate change and destruction of the environment just to name two – it's clear that not every problem is suited for every type of entrepreneur.
Personally, the following few tactics have helped me a lot finding ideas worth working on.
1. Reflect on what you really care about
Having this deep understand of what you as a person are really interested in is easier said than done. Although one can find many trends inspiring and interesting to work on, when it comes to dedicating a significant time of your daily life to this one topic, things are starting to change.
What has helped me personally was looking back on what topics I worked on in the past, what articles I read, what newsletters I subscribed to and what industries I kept on looking into.
It also helps to talk to peers and friends about what they think you are interested in. You know, sometimes it helps to talk to others to better understand yourself (wow... this was deep.)
2. Develop a habit of taking notes
This is among the most important advices that worked incredibly well for me. By following the habit of taking down notes of any kind that are related to ideas, topics and even simple to-dos, I was able to connect the dots later across seemingly different and unrelated ideas.
This helped me realizing that most of my ideas follow a pattern that pretty much reflected my general interests.
Most simple to-do apps are working well in this regard. For example, I'm a big fan of Wunderlist (now Microsoft To-Do).
3. Work as a freelancer in industries you care about
This point is clearly easier said than done for most people, but I was happy to have had the privilige to work with many great minds throughout the last years in industries I found interesting.
With this strategy, I was able to get exposed to problems that certain businesses were facing. The big upside is that you even get paid to understand these challenges and industries.
4. Read industry reports to spot trends
Many companies in the field of consulting and venture capital publish annual reports based on up and coming trends. For example, Bond Capital has been publishing their Internet Trends report since 1995.
In June 2019, they published their Internet Trends 2019 report, a 333 pages PDF with deep insights into different internet-related industries on a global scale.
Just recently, startups have picked up the idea of spotting trends as well. Most of them take Google seearch results and interpret them to generate insights. Trennd, Glimpse and Trends are just a few examples that sometimes offer free plans as well.
5. Talk to people in industries you are interested in
This sounds simple, yet getting to the people that can give you valuable insights is oftentimes not as straightforward as most people think. What helped me personally was to rely on my network on i.e. LinkedIn to spot people who I could talk to to get deeper insights
When I finally would have to chance to get someone on the phone and talk with them, I would usually try to have them talking for most of the time until I would end the concversation with one final quuestion:
Do you know 2 other people I should talk to about this idea?
This has helped me tremendously to get to talk to more people that have helped me getting deeper insights into industries, businesses and problems I had little knowledge about.
What ideas are you looking into? Let me know on Twitter @yesitsBernie