Let me start by asking you a question: What happens when you are in the market to buy something, like a new car? All of a sudden you start seeing the model you are interested everywhere, right? It's like you develop Spidey sense for seeing your new shaggin' waggon on the road! Same thing happens for new clothes, new electronics, etc. The quantity doesn't increase, you simply start noticing because your subconscious is primed to be on the lookout.
This same approach works when looking for inspiration to start a company or find a new product idea. Once you open your mind to finding an answer, your subconscious goes to work. But there are a few things you can do to kick things into a higher gear to assist in finding your answer:
1. Commit to writing down an idea a day for 30 days. 30-day challenges are awesome, especially when the outcome could be the next unicorn. (Please make it a revenue-producing unicorn, for the love of all things sacred) Even if you don't find your perfect idea after 30 days, you will have developed some excellent self discipline and created a habit of being on the constant lookout for inspiration. Again, your subconscious is an outrageously powerful tool--use it.
2. Carry around an idea notepad (and a cool clicky pen). It's 2016, you say, why not use one of the million-plus apps in your phone to take notes? Because the act of physically carrying around a notepad primes your mind and provides a constant reminder of what you are setting out to accomplish.
3. Be serious about your daily deadline. Humans need deadlines and crave constraints. It's just how we operate. So commit to physically writing your daily idea in your notebook before 12am each day--and pick a time zone if you travel. Advanced technique: Take a picture each day and email it to an accountabili-buddy. Your mom is perfect, and it gives you a good excuse to be a better child and check in more regularly like you should.
4. Idea prompt: Look for #$%^ that pisses you off. In one of my first idea notepads, each day I committed to finding something that angered me, irritated me, or simply felt like a waste of time. Then I would find a way to potentially build a business around solving a problem that others likely shared.
5. Idea prompt: Make money doing things you love. Make a list in your notepad of all the various hobbies that you enjoy, or activities you would normally spend a weekend doing without pay. Now force yourself to fill in an idea for each of these hobbies during your 30-day challenge.
6. Tip #1: Write down your ideas before doing a Google search. If you think your idea solves a problem that isn't currently being addressed, it doesn't matter if you do a search and find that there are already companies doing something similar: They clearly aren't doing a good enough job, because you--a dialed in, intelligent person--didn't know about them until you did the search, right?
7. Tip #2: Don't overthink nor give up on your ideas too easily. Remember when teachers told you that if you had a question, there was a good chance other students did as well? We live in a world with 7 billion people. I guarantee your pain point is shared by others.
How do I know this journaling thing will work? Because I've done it and seen the results firsthand: The idea for VideoBlocks came to me years ago when I was journaling about being pissed off that I couldn't afford to purchase a video clip of the Empire State Building to include in a low-budget video project I was working on.
Using Tip #2, I didn't overthink the fact that affordable stock video companies didn't exist, instead opting to buy a video camera and a tripod to shoot the Empire State Building myself to sell on eBay to test my theory. (It worked--we distributed over 12 million stock video clips through VideoBlocks.com last year to over 130,000 paying members!)
Inspiration for business ideas can come from many places, at all times of the day, and usually when you are least expecting. But I promise that if you commit to doing a 30-day Idea Journal, you will kick your subconscious into overdrive, and ideas will start flowing like woah.