5 Simple Ways to Identify Business Ideas That Could (Really) Change the World
It’s one thing to be able to identify industries and businesses that are poised for major market success. But entrepreneurship requires more than just finding an idea that can make a lot of money. For entrepreneurs to tap into the motivating power that drives lasting success, the ideas they conceive must be powerful enough to change the world through major economic, social or environmental impact.
If your idea meets that criterion, quite simply, you’ll be far more motivated to get through the entrepreneurial challenges that will follow if your product or services are a force for good. The reason is that it will be something you can truly become emotionally invested in. The challenge, of course, is identifying these business ideas in the first place.
How to do that? Here are five simple ways through which you can identify world-changing business ideas:
1. Find opportunities in your own community.
Though cultures and languages may vary, many of the challenges facing our world are similar across many parts of the globe. As such, one of the best ways to identify world-changing ideas is to start locally: Look for issues that concern your local community.
To get an expert view on how to look for opportunities locally, via email, I reached out to Geoffrey Leslie, CEO and president of Screems. This Netherlands-based company is slated to affect changes on both a local and global level using MAPS (Major Appliance Power Station), a clean energy-generating device that can be installed in a home or business. It's a device that just might change communities around the world through the affordable, self-sustaining electricity it offers.
“So many of the best ideas come from our own personal observations," Leslie wrote to me, echoing my thought about looking locally. "But to obtain these insights, you have to get out in the community."
He suggested joining a volunteer group to learn more about the issues it's trying to address, and reading news articles that discuss problems in your city. "These micro-level interactions can make all the difference in finding an issue you can address,” Leslie said.
Rather than trying to transform the entire world all in one go, you might instead identify ideas that can first be tested in your local community. This can serve as a great way to fine-tune your efforts and quantify your impact as you prepare to take your idea to a much bigger stage.
2. Draw upon your own personal experiences.
Many of the most powerful world-changing ideas come from the experiences and challenges an entrepreneur has faced in his or her own life. Take a moment to consider the problems you’re currently dealing with. These problems could be affecting your current business endeavors, your personal life or your home.
Chances are, you’re not the only person facing these issues.
Rather than wait for someone else to solve your problem for you, take steps to change the world by developing a business idea that directly addresses the issues you’re confronting. More importantly, understand that when you’re addressing your own problems, you'll be more likely to be passionate about creating and making available the best solution possible.
In Leslie’s case, for example, this meant looking at his home in the Netherlands and seeing a heavy reliance on fossil fuel. This, combined with rising concern over climate change, pegged his solution as not only an important advancement for his company, but for the world at large with the potential to democratize energy production.
3. Look for ideas that get other people involved.
Many of the most successful world-changing ideas don’t just offer a new product or service. They seek to change the way people approach their day-to-day living. Changing someone’s mental outlook will have a far greater reach and impact in the long run.
Take this example shared by business consultant Monica Bourgeau. As she wrote in HuffPost, “[Author and TEDx speaker] John-Paul Flintoff works to help protect the environment and prevent global warming. He realized he could make an immediate difference by reaching out to his neighbors. However, he did this not by overloading them with facts and research, but by giving them ... tomato plants.
Every year, Flintoff offers his extra tomato seedlings to his neighbors, Bourgeau wrote, noting: "This simple and kind act started his neighbors growing some of their own food, thereby slightly reducing their environmental impact.”
The result: As customers and community members become personally involved, you’ll make a much bigger difference than you would on your own.
4. Go out of your way to ask others how you can help.
Coming up with ideas on your own isn’t always easy. That’s why brainstorming has consistently been found to be such a powerful tool. You may be struggling to come up with a world-changing idea. But there could be plenty of people around you who have great insights that can lead you in the right direction.
Don’t be afraid to consult with several different groups to find ideas.
For example, you could ask family and friends about specific challenges. You could consult with like-minded coworkers who also wish to make an impact. You could even conduct focus groups in your own community.
Successful businesses don’t operate in a vacuum, especially if they want to change the world. As you leverage others’ input, you’ll generate more ideas regarding potential issues you can address -- and even some possibilities for how your business could solve these problems.
5. Give back through meaningful philanthropical work.
Your initial business idea doesn’t necessarily need to be world-changing in and of itself. But when you pair it with a properly aligned philanthropic effort, you can become a true force for good.
I’ve previously profiled Habir Sian, who turned his eyewear company into something greater than a traditional business because he donated glasses and set up sustainable eye clinics in impoverished countries. Sian didn’t start his business with these philanthropic concepts in mind. But, by identifying real issues related to his industry, he was able to make these charitable efforts a core part of his company’s identity. A pair of glasses in and of itself might not change the world. But pairing eyewear with this philanthropic outreach certainly just might.
Whether you’re seeking to improve living conditions for impoverished people or trying to revolutionize your industry, finding a greater purpose in your work can make all the difference for your entrepreneurial efforts.
Making a meaningful difference isn’t as far off as you might think.