How to get Good Business Ideas — The Mental Alchemy of Ideation

How to create Good Business Ideas

The idea isn’t everything, but it’s an extremely important start. It seems like there is credit given to good ideas, but not enough emphasis on the process behind the idea. We’re given the narrative of the Eureka moment, with no insight into the tributaries of ideas that really created the concept.

  • Games to play that will create new business ideas
  • How to use Travel as inspiration to discover opportunities
  • More ways to find the right business idea for you

Best Thing Ever Written on Startup Ideas

“the way to have good startup ideas is to become the sort of person who has them.” — Paul Graham

Paul Graham has the definitive essay on this topic in the world of tech Startups. Since it was recommended by 8+ people individually, there’s no doubt that it should lead off. And since every word is worth reading, there’s no need to excerpt it!

Control your Perception

This short talk (15 min) by neuroscientist Dr. Beau Lotto [suggested by Shane Mac of Assist] explores perception — how much of what we see is about how we process things, not the objective reality.

Read like a monster

As a general rule, this is a good one. Just read a ton. Read about your industry, read about business, read about failures, read novels about the human condition, read the classics, read psychology… just read.

Play Games

One way to get your brain working in a new way is to play games. These games have proven helpful in coming up with new product and business ideas, though there are many more games that may be helpful for you!

Play Word Games to come up with New Ideas

Sometimes nonsense can yield amazing new ideas — just using your imagination to come up with new combinations will surprise you. This is how Shimpei Takahashi comes up with new ideas for toys, and other products for children.

This guy has a really, really fun job.

Maximize or Minimize Variables

As Charlie Munger says: “Success often comes from the maximization or minimization of one or two variables.”

Reapplication of Business models

Business models that have been successful in one industry are often applicable in other areas. Take methods of production or service from a successful business and apply them in new ways, to new industries.

Live/Work/Play in Right Environments

New ideas are the product of many factors that influence our state of mind. One of the main determinants is our environment, both the physical and social space that surrounds us. To come up with great ideas, we should be mindful of this and do our best to choose good environments.

Hang out in Coffee Shops full of Smart People

Steven Johnson has written a fantastic book, suggested to me by Ben Redfield of Density, called Where Good Ideas Come From, about the environments that are most prone to creating innovation. Here’s his TED talk on the subject, which is a good place to start, but certainly doesn’t do the book justice.

Create and Welcome Serendipity

Serendipity is a powerful force for innovation. Whether that’s attributed to blind luck, good karma, or just stochasticity, things just happen when we are exposed to new things, and open to seeing them for what they are. Greg Lindsay calls this having ‘a prepared mind’:

Travel to new places & steal their ideas

Perhaps the most fun way to come up with business ideas is simply to travel. This is a kind of cultural reapplication. Products and services that other places take for granted may be new and very welcome in your target market. A surprising number of well-known companies have been inspired by the founders traveling and bringing good ideas home.

Red Bull took a scary Thai beverage worldwide

Red Bull is an interesting example of this — according to the founding story, an early version of the beverage found in Thailand is now a worldwide brand.

Starbucks brought Italian Coffeeshops to the US

Starbucks’ real breakthrough wasn’t around quality of coffee or scale of coffeeshops — it was about creating a new kind of establishment: bringing the feel of Italian Coffeeshops to America. Schultz’s insight was to create this ‘third place’ feeling.

Chipotle popularized the Mission Burrito

The Chipotle founder lived in San Francisco for a few years after graduation, and discovered the magic of the Mission Burrito, which he brought back to the fine people of Colorado.

Act as a Consultant to your Target Market

To build a successful company, you must solve a problem in a meaningful way. If you are not a part of your target market (and even if you are), then the more you can learn about their problems, the better.

Live in the Intersection of Two Disciplines

Many of the biggest advances come from the combination of ideas from different disciplines. Those who have mastered two different types of thinking can approach problems in ways that deeply skilled but more one-dimensional thinkers cannot. They see novel possibilities, and their solutions are often unique, surprising, and remarkable.

This is a 5-minute clip with some great points on where new opportunities open up.

Mastering Engineering & Business

Justine Musk, formerly married to Elon Musk, had similar thoughts in this quora answer. Presumably she’s referring to Elon when she speaks of someone who has mastered both engineering and business, and found unbelievable success at their intersection.

The Intersection of Arts & Technology

Steve Jobs famously worked at the intersection of technology and the social sciences. This gave him the scientific chops to build amazing machines, and the empathy and understanding of human habits and desires to craft these machines to fit our lifestyles. His work merging these two fields made him unique amongst social scientists, and among hardware engineers — this ability to pull from two disciplines is the core trait that made him such a boon to humanity.

Get Lucky

If none of this has worked for you… work on getting lucky. This is less ridiculous than it sounds. Luck can’t be created, but it can be optimized for. Read How to Get Lucky, and get to work on getting lucky!

If you still don’t have a good idea…

Start working on a bad one. Seriously — trying to sell a bad idea is likely to lead you directly toward a good one. This is (not explicitly, but kind of ) the whole practice of Customer Development. People will tell you ‘No’ and if you collect enough ‘No’s with enough answers to ‘Why not?’ you will have the beginnings of a successful idea!


If you use the ideas in this collection to get crazy rich and build a huge business, this fine print states that by reading this article, you have agreed to grant me 1% equity.

My Other Projects

Upcoming Book: The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

Evergreen Lives on Donations

Creating Evergreen takes a lot of time and decent amount of money. If you find anything helpful and interesting here, please consider buying me some BBQ ($11 Z-Man & Fries at Joe’s KC), or really anything between a coffee and a good dinner. Thank you very much! ❤ ☺

Thank you

Massive appreciation for who suggested pieces of content (or wrote something new) for this Edition of Evergreen: Itamar Goldminz, Ben Redfield, Shane Mac, Simon Taranto, Kenny Fraser, Jukka Multisilta, Benajmin Kinnard, Andy Britcliffe, Ryan McKnight, and Victor S.

Never Enough

As my Father always says: “There’s always room for the best.” There’s always a better resource out there. These collections can always get better, and I hope that they do. If you can think of anything that was missed, I welcome you to share it.

If you liked this, check out other Editions of Evergreen:Building and Managing a Team:How to Find and Recruit the Team you Need
How Not to Hire like a Clownshow
Compensation Rules Everything Around Me
Why Employee Onboarding is holding you back
How to Boost Employee Retention
How Performance Reviews are being Reinvented
Secrets to Perfecting Organizational Communication
How to Manage Scale, and Operate in Scaling Organizations
How to Fire an Employee
What you actually need to know about Company Culture
How to Interview Prospective HiresStrategy and Competitive Advantage:How to Master the Craft of Strategy
Competitive Advantage: How to Build a Winning Business
The Power of Network Effects
How Cost Leadership Builds Powerful Businesses
Why the Best Brands Stand Out
Scale as Competitive Advantage
Barriers to Entry are Confusing
Flywheel Effect: Meta-Competitive AdvantageBuilding the Business:How to get good business Ideas: Mental Alchemy of Ideation
How to Choose the Right Business Ideas
Product/Market Fit: What it really means & How to Measure it
How to Failure-proof your business with Customer Development
How Strategy and Psychology Work Together to Perfect Pricing 
The Most Important Equations in Business - CAC (Part 1)
The Simple Math Behind Every Profitable Business - CLV (Part 2)
How Psychology behind Word-of-Mouth Works
The Secret Core of Every Successful Business--Distribution
The Most Important Lessons in Sales
Why Value Creation is the Foundation of Business
Why Value Capture is the most important idea you haven't read about
The Misunderstood and Underestimated Genius of AdvertisingHow to be a Great Human:How to Start a New Job: Handling Career Transitions like a Boss
How to Master the Discipline of Product Management
The Ancient Origins of Storytelling, and how to Apply Them
How to Prioritize Using These 9 Mental ModelsI've also written about How & Why we started Evergreen:How a prototype's failure created the next iteration
Mission & Method of EvergreenFollow me on Twitter: @EricJorgensonAnd Please... Join Evergreen.

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Timeless Wisdom on Business Topics, created from the best resources suggested by our readers. Each week there’s a new topic and a new Edition of Evergreen Business Weekly. Become a member at

Eric Jorgenson

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Read and write. Listen and speak. Think and unthink. Fixing the biggest broken market in the world at Zaarly. I am a Terrible Investor. Tw: @EricJorgenson

Evergreen Business Fortnightly

Timeless Wisdom on Business Topics, created from the best resources suggested by our readers. Each week there’s a new topic and a new Edition of Evergreen Business Weekly. Become a member at