Where Will You Find Your Next Great Idea?

If you're seeking inspiration, try these five avenues.

learn more about Justin Esgar

By Justin Esgar

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While I love seeing my own ideas take off, I'm even more excited by the prospect of helping develop a universal formula for success. I see the value that entrepreneurship has in our world. It pushes technology forward, challenging us as human beings to think and to evolve.

I have met people with ideas that have real value for our society, but they are allowing minor roadblocks to get in their way and to prevent them from making an impact.

You probably have at least a slight notion of an idea in mind, but if not, I can give you a little insight on where good ideas come from. The first piece of advice is this: don't get held up on the idea. Don't think of an idea and attempt to figure out all the small details right away. Take the idea and run with it.

Related: Sift Through Your Business Ideas for a Winner With These 3 Steps

So where do ideas come from?

1. Your world

These are the spontaneous ideas that hit you in your everyday life. The appliance in your kitchen that desperately needs another function, the underutilized advertising opportunity in your morning commute, or the piece of software we know could optimize our workday.

We tend to move through life quickly and accept things for what they are, but when you slow down and start to question the things around you, you'll find yourself inspired. Many of these ideas you'll throw out -- too expensive, not enough of a target audience -- but once you start to see the world around you as open market for opportunity, you're bound to find a couple of ideas with real potential.

2. Your "bad" ideas

Some of us are blessed with inspiration all the time. We come up with ideas constantly throughout the day, laughing many of them off as unrealistic, shirking others as poor concepts. You'll find that the more bad ideas you have, the more potential good ideas you'll have as well.

Keep a note open on your mobile device or a notebook and write down every idea you have, no matter how foolish or grandiose it seems. When you go back from time to time to review the list, you may see the more realistic, accomplishable side of some of those ideas.

Reading that list off to others can also be a launch point to discussion and the development of those concepts into something legitimate. The only way to guarantee an idea won't go anywhere is to ignore it.

3. Collaborations

Sometimes you have an idea that can't quite round out to completion, an idea that is half-baked, so to speak. Some of the world's best new inventions are not the efforts of one person, but a collaborative effort. Conversations with others in your field, even those you connect with on the Internet from the other side of the world, can lead to higher-level inspiration.

Related: 20 Questions You Can Ask to Validate Your Startup Idea

Discussing your concepts with a colleague can lead to the realization that while individually, you're only halfway there, together, you've struck gold. Even casual conversations with friends or coworkers can lead to development.

Keep a nondisclosure agreement on hand for more serious collaborative meetings, but stay open to the idea of teamwork. Too many egos over the years have gotten in the way of what could have been great success stories.

4. Friends and family

You don't have to limit your collaboration to other business-minded folks either. Really listen to your friends and family. By paying attention to their daily complaints, you have the opportunity to find room for improvement in their lives as well as your own.

My mother is hard of hearing. I constantly receive requests from her to come up with something to improve the quality of her life. Sure, a lot of her complaints are just too large for me to resolve, but there have been several ideas that have launched some real concepts and developments that have been made to accommodate her disability.

Think of your friends who are having trouble marketing their own businesses, or older family members who are struggling with modern technology. The people around you are an unending supply of problem-solving potential.

Just keep in mind that no matter what you come up with, your mother will probably think it's genius, so be sure to vet it out with someone less subjective.

5. Ask around

If you feel that you are bound for entrepreneurship, you can always ask potential clients for ideas. Much like finding weaknesses in your own company, you can call companies in the market you are interested in, and ask them what issues they need to deal with on a regular basis. If they all share a common issue -- there's your idea. Make that. After all, you know they will buy that product.

Most important, write your idea down! On your phone, tablet, and/or in your notebook, jot down your overarching concepts, as well as the smaller ideas that go along with them. You'll find that once an idea hits, your thoughts will come in fast and furious.

Justin Esgar

Entrepreneur and Software Developer

Justin Esgar is a serial entrepreneur and software developer. His best-selling apps include SignMyPad, the paperless PDF signature solution, TruckFood and Goodnight, the parental monitoring app. He is a blogger, podcaster, speaker and author of the new book Appitalize on Your Idea.

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