How to find a business idea

The path to self-employment begins for every founder with the search for the right business idea. But not every idea is also a business idea that promises sufficient economic success. It is important to check the potential of the idea to start a business in advance.

Do you have an idea for a business startup? A business idea is the starting point for setting up a business and it forms the basis of every business plan you prepare for the startup.

The business idea does not have to be innovative or completely new for you to be successful with your business startup. As a rule, real market novelties are the rarity when starting up a business. Rather, it is the planning and implementation of the business idea that lays the foundation for successful self-employment. Take some time when searching for and examining your idea for self-employment.

Search for your own business idea

You want to start up a business but do not yet have the right idea for self-employment? Oftenly the use of creativity techniques can help to stimulate new ways of thinking. A brainstorming session to get new ideas or a mind map to structure thoughts can also help.

You do not have to reinvent the world with your idea. There are several ways to get your business idea to start a new business. An idea for self-employment can be implemented in the form of an innovation, an improved offer, an improved service or marketing, as well as by opening up a new market. However, the starting point of your search for the right business idea is always the question: What does the customer want?

In detail, your idea for starting an own business can be assigned to the following strategies:

  • Innovation: You start the self-employment with an offer that does not yet exist on the market
  • Product modification: Within the framework of your business idea, you modify an offer in order to better adapt it to market requirements.
  • Market penetration: You start with an offer similar to the competition but try to reach customers better with your business idea through better marketing or more effective sales.
  • Expansion: You take an existing product and use it to open up new markets, for example abroad.

Creativity techniques

The classic brainstorming session

In the context of a business startup, brainstorming primarily serves to find new or even unusual business ideas or ideas for a projects, products or services. Usually the brainstorming takes place in the form of a group discussion led by a moderator. The moderator presents the initial situation and takes up the thoughts of the group members. The participants inspire each other by absorbing all approaches without criticism or discussion. So brainstorming is not about a realistic assessment, but only about a collection of ideas of any kind. The evaluation follows only after the brainstorming.


Mindmapping creates a thought tree. With this technique, links are formed, starting from a topic/ word. There are different purposes for a mind map, it can help to structure and illustrate existing thoughts, but it can also be useful to find new ideas. Mind mapping method can be divided into three phases:

  • Association phase
  • Critical phase
  • Sorting or structuring phase

Founders of a new business who plan to implement their business idea with the mind mapping model should first write their ideas creatively on a blank sheet of paper or on an empty blackboard (association phase). Afterwards, the individual contents are corrected, deleted or supplemented once again (criticism phase) and finally logically structured and all noted terms are linked with a line to the central term but also with each other (sorting or structuring phase). With the help of this method, the appropriate approach for the implementation of the business startup can be found.

6-3-5 creativity method

The creativity technique 6-3-5 stands for

  • 6 participants
  • 3 ideas and
  • 5 times passing to the next participant.

The basis for the creativity technique is a sheet of paper that each participant receives. On it there is a table with three columns and six rows. Each participant writes down three ideas (one per column) in 3 to 5 minutes and then passes the sheet on. The next participant completes these ideas or writes similar ones. In the end, the creativity technique produces 108 ideas – or ideally a really useful business idea.

Osborne Checklist

As a rule, you only use the Osborn checklist if you already have a basic idea. The American advertising expert Alexander Osborn developed this technique in the 1950s, which uses a catalogue of questions comprising nine complexes. By restructuring a problem through certain questions, other solutions should be found. This technique is particularly suitable when it comes to the further development of existing ideas, products, projects etc. The list of questions can be supplemented as required. The aim of the Osborn method is to gain other aspects and to develop new possibilities together. It is crucial that each question on the list is answered and thought through to the end. Only when you can’t think of anything more to ask a question should you move on to the next question.

The questions on the Osborn checklist are

  • Other use? Are there alternatives or alternative uses if the product is adapted? Or are there uses for a different target group?
  • Adapt? Is there anything similar? With the same function? Similar material or appearance? Who can I copy, imitate or replicate? Are there parallels to an existing product?
  • Modify? Other shapes, colours, sounds, smells, feelings?
  • Enlarge? For example, you can increase the time period, frequency, stability, height or thickness, a value, ingredients, quantity, etc.
  • Reduce? Think about what is superfluous. Reduce also means to make something compact or condensed, to omit something or shorten it.
  • Replace? Ever thought about new ingredients, ingredients, materials, processes, locations, sounds?
  • Rearrange? A new layout, a different order, a different tempo, a different process flow, a better effect – all this can optimize products or ideas.
  • Transform into the opposite? How about the opposite? Ever turned upside down? Rolled up from behind? Roles swapped? Turn the tables on me?
  • Combine? Maybe the mix is doing it? You can combine intentions, demands, ideas, approaches, areas of application etc.


The Flip-Flop creativity method

The “flip-flop technique” is a successful creativity technique, also called the “reverse method”. It delivers effective results and is also a lot of fun. This method is particularly suitable for people who always fear the worst, are looking for the hair in the soup or are basically pessimistic.

With the flip-flop technique, the problem or the original question is simply turned into the opposite. The unusual approach provides a lot of solutions and ideas in a very astonishing way. Because resistances, problems or errors of a project are usually recognized faster than possible solutions or new development steps. An example illustrates how the reversal method can work

When designing an online shop, the participants of the creativity round should think about what will definitely lead to failure. The results were as follows:

  • Do not offer customer service
  • Do not publish a service number
  • Etc.

Later you will turn these reformulated points around and make them more concrete in a positive way: Offer excellent customer services…, publishing service number…, etc.