Why didn’t I think of that?
Those six words perfectly capture the essence of the no-brainer idea. If you’ve ever asked that question out loud or in your mind, then the chances are that you’ve witnessed a no-brainer idea at first hand – whether as a consumer or a passive observer. And perhaps you felt a pang of jealousy at the simplicity of it all.
Well, there’s nothing to fear. While inspiration can take hold at any time, the best no-brainers are ones that adhere to one or more of three basic principles:
- Supply and demand
- Solving an existing problem
- Predicting trends before they occur
While it would be churlish to suggest that all of the best business ideas fall under one of these headings, the vast majority do.
There’s further good news when we consider that it isn’t always seasoned business professionals who come up with those light bulb moments. Often it can be first-time owners who capture the answer to a universal problem; how many success stories have we heard of innovators and entrepreneurs going from, for want of a better phrasing, zero to hero?
It is often the simplest of ideas that cross borders and transcend generations. From humble beginnings to worldwide acclaim, the leap is all predicated around that one question: what makes a business idea a no-brainer?
Supply and demand
This is the most basic commercial principle out there that has governed the success of businesses – and thus their initial idea – throughout history.
Is the product or service something that people want and need? And if so, are you in a position to be able to supply it in the bulk and at the price that is required?
Remember, this is about delivering a product or service that people not only want but are also willing to pay for, otherwise how are you going to make money?
That's the key point here: your idea might feel like a no-brainer to you as an individual, but if the bigger picture is that there are no like-minded souls who share your enthusiasm, then it is unlikely to become the success you’d originally imagined.
Solving an existing problem
Coming up with a cost effective and long-lasting solution to an existing problem is perhaps the definition of a no-brainer idea. If you had ever found cause to moan about a particular product or service, then think of the issue from another perspective. How could you improve it? If you can come up with an idea that takes the problem and either eliminates it or provides an effective solution, then you could be in business.
An example would be the current poster boy for the business no-brainer, Uber. This connected individuals with a driving license, a car, some spare time and a willingness to earn extra money with customers who are unable to source alternative transport.
Problem: no public transport to a desired destination and taxi services are either unavailable or considered too expensive.
Solution: creating a freelance driver network and bringing the two together.
The Uber premise has not been without issues of its own of course, but generally it’s an idea that delivers the classic 'why didn’t I think of that?' line.
Predicting trends before they happen
This notion actually sounds more complicated than it really is – you don’t need a crystal ball to satisfy this criteria of no-brainerdom. Take a look at SnapChat, for example. The market is there already (a huge number of people across the globe own smartphones) and there is a clear demand for short-form, shareable content online: the business model of Twitter has proven that.
So there’s an element of supply and demand already in place, and when you add in the simple app-based platform that so many of us now know as second nature and SnapChat’s owners can lay claim to identifying a social trend before it really took off.
And as we know, it is the early adopters who tend to achieve the most.
Change the world?
And here’s the final secret about no-brainer ideas: they don’t need to be life changing. You know the saying "this is the best thing since sliced bread," right? Well imagine the person who took the humble loaf of bread and sliced it (his name was Otto Frederick Rohwedder, FYI). Did this idea change the world? No. But did it enhance the lives of people globally? Hell yes.
And therein lies the most pertinent point to end on: a no-brainer business idea doesn’t need to revolutionise the way we think, eat, talk, dress etc. It just needs to add value to our lives.
The first Business is an Adventure event, featuring Richard Branson and a panel of prominent LA business leaders, takes place in Los Angeles on February 18th. The event will be available to stream for free on virgin.com from 16:00 (PST).