Find your entrepreneurial idea

Great entrepreneurial ideas aren’t hard to find — you just need to know how and where to look for them.

In this module, you’ll learn how to:

  • Identify different phases of the entrepreneurship journey
  • Discover interesting problems
  • Sharpen your ability to generate ideas

Soon you’ll notice potential ventures appearing all over the place.

How to find your entrepreneurial idea

The entrepreneurship journey

What problem will you solve?

Take entrepreneurial action

(Required activity) Take your first step along the entrepreneurial path: conduct interviews to help you uncover problems related to an area of interest.

Choose an industry, professional field, organization, or geographical area in which you are interested.

Do phone or Zoom interviews with three people in that “zone.” At a minimum, ask them these questions:

  • What do you love about your industry/field/organization/area?
  • What frustrates you about it?
  • What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your industry/field/organization/area?
  • What opportunities do you see on the horizon?
  • Which trends are you watching?

Summarize your interview findings in a form that will be easy for you to refer to later on.

Reflection questions

  1. Read over your interview summaries. What hunches have you confirmed about problems and opportunities in your “zone”? What new knowledge have you gained?
  2. How did you find the experience of conducting the interviews? What surprised you about it? How did it help you recognize and/or develop some of your entrepreneurial strengths?

For further help

Journaling activity

Try a journaling activity to help you identify and explore ideas that have entrepreneurial potential.

How to find entrepreneurial problems

In most situations, a problem is a negative thing. But for entrepreneurs, a problem is the launchpad to opportunity.

Great entrepreneurial problems are all around you. It’s just a matter of noticing them with the eyes of a solution-maker.

For three to five days, keep a Problem-Spotting Journal. Write for 10 minutes in response to one or two of the following questions. You may be surprised to discover how problem-rich your world is!

Journaling Questions

  • What causes are you passionate about?
  • What are your hobbies and extracurricular interests?
  • What really angers you?
  • What kind(s) of people do you enjoy helping?
  • What do you love doing so much that you lose track of the time when you’re doing it?
  • What product or service do you find lacking in your school or personal life?

Ideation tips

Ideation is a thinking muscle everyone has but not everyone develops.

Ideation tips

Here are 15 tips to help you improve your ability to generate creative ideas and solutions:

  1. Following a familiar walking route (maybe from Mount A to your dorm room or apartment), use the side of the road you don’t usually travel on. What do you notice from your new perspective?
  2. Pick an ordinary object, such as a paper coffee cup, and brainstorm at least 20 different uses for it. (For bonus points, give yourself a time limit of one to two minutes.)
  3. Consider fantasy and worst-case scenarios for a given situation.
  4. Imagine how someone from a different age group or culture would view a situation. If you’re a history buff, you might imagine how a favourite historical figure would view the situation.
  5. Intentionally juxtapose polar opposites. (Maybe this is how iced coffee was created?)
  6. Go for a walk in nature and focus on soaking in the sounds and smells around you.
  7. Study a problem in depth before you sleep and let your unconscious work on it. (Keep a pen and paper by your bed so you can record fresh ideas first thing in the morning.)
  8. Read widely, especially outside your academic discipline.
  9. Talk through a tough problem with a friend or family member.
  10. Expose yourself to art of all different kinds. Listen to how writers, visual artists, and performers describe their creative process.
  11. Start a sentence with “What if...” and see what happens. Don’t rule out any idea as being too ambitious or crazy.
  12. Assemble an ideation group and lead it through a mix of independent and group brainstorming activities.
  13. Welcome “stupid” ideas. Multiple “bad” ideas may lead to a great idea.
  14. Draw an idea rather than writing or talking it out.
  15. Open up a can of playdough and start shaping a prototype solution. (This is a fun activity to do with friends.)

Additional resources

Why is entrepreneurial thinking important?

» UP NEXT: Module 2 — Collect insights from your target market