Generating Ideas

How to generate ideas for your business using ‘brainstorming’ and ‘mind maps’.

Chances are that if you’ve decided to set up a business, you already have your business idea. More often than not, entrepreneurs will turn their personal or professional passions into business ideas. However, this is not always the case. It may be that you have a desire to work for yourself, work from home, or do something that has never been done, but you are lacking the idea to get you started. If you want to start a business, but don’t know how to come up with an original and innovative idea, this guide will introduce you to some brainstorming and idea-generating ideas that may help inspire you.


Brainstorming is always a good place to start. To get the most out of a brainstorming exercise, it’s helpful if you work with a group of people. Start by identifying the problem you need to solve. In this case, the problem is the lack of a business idea.

Then kick the process off by writing the first business idea that comes to your mind on a whiteboard or clearly-visible piece of paper. It doesn’t matter if the idea is unoriginal or unattainable – by writing it down so everyone can see it, it can serve to influence and/or facilitate other ideas. Keep listing ideas as people call them out. The activity can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, or even longer. The idea here is to get you thinking and to build on the ideas that have been expressed, aiming for quantity over quality. It is also important to minimise discussion or criticism. This should be approached as an ‘anything goes’ exercise and no idea is too silly or outlandish.

Ask ‘how?’

Think about a problem or situation that bothers you. How would you fix it? These can be specific or vague – again, the process is designed to get you thinking. Sit down with a piece of paper and start writing out your questions. For example, you might find the process of waiting for taxi particularly irritating. So your list of questions might look like this:

  • How can I shorten my wait time?
  • How can taxi services be cheaper?
  • How can I use texts to call taxis?
  • How can I occupy my time while I wait?
  • How can I ease tension?

You should expect the list to evolve and diverge from the topic you started with. If you carry the process on long enough you should have an interesting, varied list of questions, the answer to which could be your business idea.

Make a mind map

Mind maps are helpful tools, particularly for those who need to see problems laid out visually. It takes the problem, then breaks it down into increasingly more specific solutions or points.

Begin by asking a question. As an entrepreneur, you might think about what consumer problem you want to solve. For instance, you might ask, ‘How can printing services be more effective?’ or ‘How can I help consumers lower their utility bills?’ To build your mind map, put your question in the centre and then branch off from there, writing one-word responses or reactions at the end of each branch.

The words should be broad so that you can break the initial branches down into more specific branches. Use colour and drawings if it helps you; these do not have to be neat or formal.  The result will hopefully be an idea for a product or service that you can introduce as an answer to your question. The below diagram demonstrates the structure of a mind map.


There are many mind map examples on the internet. Have a look at these; they can help you jumpstart your creativity.

These are just a few of the techniques you can employ to help you kick-start your creative side . If you are still finding it difficult to generate ideas, then you should consider another technique – pausing. Step away from the problem for a while. Take a walk or have a chat with a friend – whatever you need to do to clear your head.  You’ll often find that when you return to the problem you’ll be refreshed and more enthusiastic about solving it.

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