Looking for an idea for an online platform or mobile app?

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Ideas come easily to some - but for others, it’s seems like every idea they come up with has been done already. So, if you're looking for a platform or app idea, or even if you want to create a product or service of any sort -  but you’re not sure what to do, then this article will give you some areas to look at.

Contrary to popular belief, most ideas don’t just land on your head.  They come about because you’ve made an active choice to look for them. In product development, the activity of looking for ideas is called “ideation”. Yes, there’s a step out there where you commit some time to come up with ideas.   

As you start brainstorming for ideas, you need to remember two key things:

  1. In order for a solution (or product) to exist, there has to be a problem to solve, a need to address, or a goal to reach. If there’s no problem, there’s no product.
  2. The problem has to be painful enough, or the need or goal big enough for people to seek out solutions for it. If there’s no pain, there’s no product.

So, let’s get started.

The best places to look for ideas are in places that you know.

1. Look at your current business or organisation

I doubt there are any perfect businesses out there, so this is a good place to start. Whether you own your own business or work for someone else’s, think about its weaknesses or anything that might threaten its success. Are there any areas that might have a big enough problem for you to solve?     

Also think about the opportunities in the business. Is there something going on that you might be able to leverage into something bigger? Think about all of those tools that exist to automate things or to make things more efficient. Is there an untapped market out there as it relates to your business?

2. Look at your industry

Next, look at the industry that you operate in. Are there any significant problems or challenges that you face? Are there any political, economic, social or technological trends that may either threaten or create opportunities for you?

What are your direct competitors or alternative competitors working on? Is there an opportunity to do something better than them? Are there weaknesses that you could exploit?

Look at your indirect competitors. Are there industries that are different from yours, but may be structured in the same way? What are they doing and what can you learn from them?  

3. Look at your job role and those around you

There may be ideas in your job role, or in those around you. As a business owner, could you leverage your strengths to create a new product or service? Maybe there are areas that you find challenging or hard to do well?   Are there other roles in your business that you’ve found problematic?  Maybe it’s hard to find good people? Or maybe the role itself has challenges? What kinds of tools could be created to make life easier for you?  

Those in corporate land also have an opportunity to find pain points in their own roles and in those around them. Talk to other people that have these roles and find out what keeps them up at night. Is it the same as you?

In my first article for this blog, I told the story of how I started out. I’ve worked in tech for a long time, and my idea for Great Products Consulting came out of challenges that I faced in my roles as a business analyst and a product manager. If I had these challenges as an expert, I could  imagine what it would be like for people that had never done this before. 

4. Look at your personal life

What problems do you face in your personal life? Maybe you have a need to fill or a goal to achieve? Think about a typical day or week, and all of the things that you do. Are there any areas where you get stuck? Are there services or products that you use that don’t work the way that you need them to? Have you had any recent experiences that took up more of your time than you thought it would? Maybe there was a particularly difficult experience that could have gone better? Conduct surveys with people you don’t know. Find out what their needs, problems, and goals are in a particular area of interest to you, and find out whether the results align with your ideas.

5. Look at what else is going on in the world around you

If all else fails, look in general at what’s going on in the world around you. Maybe there are some social or technical trends that you could capitalise on? Is there something going on in the economy that needs a solution? Maybe changes in the political environment have opened up an opportunity for new product ideas? This category is probably your last resort because you may end up with ideas that aren’t as appealing – simply because they’re not in your area of expertise or experience.

Keep on looking...

Don’t worry if your initial list of ideas sucks - or maybe something that initially sounded like a good idea, ends up being a dud. This process of looking for ideas will actually spark your creativity. You'll find yourself coming up with more and more ideas – as long as you continue to probe into these different areas. Think of this first attempt as a warm up exercise for the real deal. You’re now looking for ideas, rather than hoping one will miraculously appear – and that will make all of the difference. Good luck and happy ideating!

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