Having trouble finding a great business idea? If you’re like many aspiring entrepreneurs in the earliest stages of building your business, you may be struggling for one of two reasons:
- You have no ideas!
- You have too many ideas!
In this post, I’m going to share an exercise that will help you brainstorm a bunch of potential business ideas to find the one with the most promise. If your struggle is a lack of ideas, this’ll help get them flowing. And if you have too many ideas, it’ll help you narrow them down.
Turning Passions, Problems & Fears into Business Possibilities
This exercise is called the 7/7/7 exercise, and it will help you uncover a list of “seed ideas” that could become the basis of your business. First you’ll brainstorm twenty-one ideas across three categories (hence the “7/7/7”), then you’ll narrow down those ideas until you find the most promising one.
In the 7/7/7 exercise, you’ll be brainstorming ideas in three categories:
- Problems you want to solve
- Passions that drive you
- Things you’re afraid of
These three categories—problems, passions, and fears—give you a framework for generating powerful ideas, some of which could eventually turn into working business models.
Why three sets of seven ideas? To be honest, it’s a little arbitrary. But we’ve found that twenty-one is a nice sweet spot of total ideas to work with. That said, feel free to tweak things up or down if you’re struggling to come up with seven ideas for each category, or you’re overflowing with ideas and can’t keep it to just twenty-one.
Either way, the 7/7/7 exercise will get you moving in the right direction when it comes to finding the right idea to build your business around!
And that’s all we’re shooting for at this stage: direction.
Putting the 7/7/7 Exercise into Action
Here’s how the 7/7/7 exercise works.
The first step is to find something to write on. It could be Post-it Notes, a whiteboard, or just a notebook—whatever works best for you. What matters is getting the ideas in your head somewhere where you can see them.
The next step is to start brainstorming seven problems, passions, and fears that could serve as the basis for your business idea. Don’t hold back—just get them all out onto your whiteboard or notebook. You might be surprised at what you come up with.
Next, look at the list of twenty-one items and start removing the ones that don’t make sense as business ideas. Maybe it’s because they’re not something you’re passionate about, or just aren’t realistic.
Once you’ve eliminated the ones that don’t make sense, take a look at what’s left. Take a few minutes with each of the remaining of the passions, fears, and problems to see which ones spark something for you. What is your gut telling you about each one? Consider how it might be turned into a product or service. It’s okay if you don’t have a clear picture of what that might look like—as we said earlier, we’re just looking for direction at this stage.
If you want to see the 7/7/7 exercise in action (complete with examples from the brain of Pat Flynn), check out the video below.
Next Step: Putting Your Business Idea to the Test
So what did you think? Did the 7/7/7 exercise help you get closer to a business idea you’re passionate about, that solves a common problem, or that addresses a fear you and others share?
Hey, maybe your new business idea is one that does all three of those things?
This business idea generation exercise is obviously not the end of the road in developing your idea and turning it into a viable business. It’s just one of the crucial first steps in developing a winning business idea and landing your first customer.
If you want to take what you came up with in the 7/7/7 exercise and start turning it into an honest-to-goodness business, then check out Smart From Scratch. No matter what, the 7/7/7 exercise will give you a great starting point, along with some ideas about what you don’t want to do with your business. And it’ll even give you a chance to learn something about yourself in the process.
A Few More Resources for Finding Your Best Business Idea
There are many ways to come up with a great business idea, and the 7/7/7 exercise is just one tool. Here are a few conversations from the SPI Podcast and AskPat archives that tackle the strategies and complexities of business-idea generation.
What happened to good old keyword research? Is it still a viable way to find a niche?
Dane Maxwell takes an unorthodox approach to business building. He joins an early episode of the SPI Podcast to share his perspective on how focusing too much on ideas early on can hold you back.
What happens if you have two really good business ideas, and you just can’t decide which one to pursue? That’s what Luis asks in AP 0961.
Make It Messy to Find Your Great Business Idea
Coming up with a great business idea isn’t supposed to be clean and simple. It’s a messy process! But if you’re willing to throw a bunch of ideas out there and sift through them to find the gems—using the 7/7/7 exercise, for example—you’ll be on the right track to developing a viable business. And if you want help with all business-building the steps after that—from discovering your niche, to researching customers, to positioning your business, and beyond—check out Smart From Scratch.