As the “work for one company your entire life” model continues to fizzle before our eyes, more people ponder the idea of starting a business. While there are thousands (maybe millions) of pieces of online advice promoting one particular idea or another, it seems to us that a more valuable skill would be to learn how to generate ideas yourself. It’s a tricky process that tiptoes the line between creativity and roll-up-your-sleeves grunt work. The bottom line is you can learn to generate ideas with regularity. Here are five tips to teach you how to do just that.

What is the World Missing?

This is a powerful question to ask yourself when it comes to uncovering a solid idea. A first step might be to look to your own life and experience. What is it the world doesn’t have that would make your life easier as a consumer? Then expand to ponder the issue from a larger perspective. Don’t let yourself be limited by reality at this stage. There are plenty of ways to finance an idea if it’s good enough.

What’s Your Passion?

It’s easier to stay motivated about a topic you’re interested in than one you’re not. Starting a new company involves lots of time and energy, and it’s much easier to stick with until you reach the land of profitability when you like what you’re doing. Long hours. Late nights. The trick then becomes to discover what you’re truly passionate about. Start with a list, then narrow it down.

What Skills Do You Possess?

We have to offer a caveat now. No matter how passionate you are about something, it helps to have at least some level of skill or talent in the area. The good news is that you can always hire people who do have the skills needed at various points along the way. Figure out what skills and/or talents you currently have and how they might fit into a potential business. You know the drill. Brainstorm by whatever method you prefer. Keep track of the results.

Screen the Whimsical

Not every idea that flits through your cranium is a good one. Learn to weed out the fanciful notions early in the process, so you can get on to the ones that matter. Some useful criteria to apply might be:

  1. Should have some level of complexity to keep others from replicating
  2. Scalable and not limited by the number of hours you can physically work
  3. Provide early and steady cash flow

Embrace Failure

Obviously, we don’t recommend you embrace too eagerly the wholesale collapse of a business that leaves you filing for bankruptcy and begging for scraps on the street corner. The reality is that even an overall successful endeavor probably has at least a few small failures along the way. Don’t pout. Embrace them for the learning opportunity they embody.