Where to find new ideas to start & grow a business

If you read the post ‘How to Profit from the Alternative Rhythms of Time‘, you’ll be aware I’ve recommended the ‘Springwise‘ website. It’s the place to get your daily fix of innovative and entrepreneurial ideas…

Springwise offers so many opportunities. You can sign up to receive daily news, browse thousands of new ideas (all carefully segmented) and even submit your own proposal as a business start-up. Just a few hours of research should pay real dividends and will also connect you with a new community of like-minded people.

The power of Social Media

Like many new finds, I discovered Springwise through Twitter. This now famous social media channel is a rich source of new ideas and information too. For me, Twitter is great for promotion, but it’s even better for research because you quickly find yourself in places you never even knew existed.

For the record, other websites providing ideas, inspiration and advice include smarta.com and coolbusinessideas.com. One of the things I like about Smarta is the advice on the Home page which emphasises the need to be market focused when starting a new business.

Why didn’t I think of that?

When reviewing the recommended ‘idea sources’ don’t be put off by the apparent brilliance of others or believe that you don’t have the skills to think in such an innovative way.

By the time any of us leave full time education, we’ve typically grown accustomed to a linear/vertical way of thinking. This is because we learn subjects in silos. As such, thinking across subjects (lateral), making new connections and seeing new ideas does not necessarily come easy. However, matters improve if this thinking flaw is understood and you’re prepared to look for inspiration or undertake basic research in less familiar places.

Apple founder Steve Jobs is one of the greatest ‘idea minds’ that has ever lived. Whilst he dropped out of Reed College as a teenager, he hung around the campus in Portland. He then chose to  ‘visit’ lessons that appealed to him and his way of thinking. In the highly readable official biography and address to Stanford University he talks about this part of his life and in particular his attendance at a Calligraphy course – simply because it fascinated him. Years later, what he learnt about calligraphy and fonts became a cornerstone of the Apple revolution.

By looking around and seeing links between subjects, Steve Jobs saw opportunities, new ideas and thus gaps in the market. Jobs looked for the ‘intersection’ of subjects. For example, when PCs were mass produced in ugly metal boxes he recognised the need for something different. He saw the opportunity to intertwine technology and the liberal arts and beautiful computers resulted. Later, with iTunes, he fused music with technology.

Ideas through people

Meeting and networking with people is often a great way to source/nurture new ideas. A group of individuals (with different talents) that work well together is able to look at an issue from more than one perspective and can then harvest and refine ideas more quickly. It’s of little surprise that many new team-based businesses are seeded in university or college life.

In fact education is like hitchhiking in that it provides an opportunity to meet new people from all kinds of different backgrounds. For me, travelling for over 10 years as a hitchhiker made it possible to see things in different ways. Critically, it helped me to understand that my take on an issue or way of seeing the world was often only shared by a minority.

Tip! Just because you might think an idea is good, share and test it with others before you put too much energy and time into it.

The whole subject of how and where ideas are developed will continue to fascinate me. Enterprise educator Dave Jarman from the University of Bristol recently recommended that I buy the book ‘Where good ideas come from‘ by Steven Johnson. So I did.

It’s a great read because the text examines the intersection of subjects and explores how environments influence innovation. Doubtless I will review it in more detail on this blog, but if you want a taste of what Stephen is saying, have a look at him explaining his thinking on this TED film.

Key Learning Points: Use freely available sources to nurture thinking and develop new ideas. Explore different perspectives, use lateral thinking and meet people. Look for the intersection between subjects for real business opportunities.    


  1. Amy Morse says

    Successful entrepreneurs ask ‘the market’ what they want first, but they still need to think laterally and find ways to generate ideas in order to fill that demand in the most effective way. Switch your focus to ‘what others want’, rather than ‘what you think’ and you’ll have a lot more success. But anything to keep those creative juices flowing will get you looking at things in a different way and make that success sustainable.
    Thanks for these links, I shall go forth and explore Interwebs!

Leave a Reply