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Looking For A Business Idea? Start With Your Purpose

Here's a completely different way of developing a business idea. Instead of focusing on a problem worth solving, focus on the purpose that drives you.

By | Eloise Skinner |

Have you ever tried to come up with a new business idea? For some entrepreneurs, the idea comes naturally — perhaps it came from a familiar industry, or there was an unsolved problem that the founder experienced first-hand. But not every aspiring founder has a clear idea of exactly what that business should do. So, where to start?

Many business schools will recommend a set formulation: First, start by identifying a problem in the world or in your life. Then develop a solution. There are other methods, of course — like assessing personal skills and abilities, using design thinking, undertaking market research, and so on. But one element often gets overlooked, or left as an afterthought.

That element is a sense of purpose. It isn’t just the driving force of a business; it can also be the seed of a business idea.

Purpose before problem

In this alternative formulation, a sense of purpose — both individual and corporate — comes first, and helps to guide the rest of the process. Forget quickly drawing up your corporate mission as a last-minute addition to your pitch deck. Instead, try asking yourself the following questions before you even begin:

  • What is my personal purpose?
  • What purpose would I like my business to work towards?
  • Which ultimate goals drive my ambition?

Once you have a few initial thoughts, see if you can go deeper still. You may have heard of the Five Whys method, originally used in a corporate context to get to the core of an issue. Here, you can also apply it to your own purpose-finding journey. Ask yourself, “What is my personal purpose?” Come up with an answer. Then challenge that answer by asking, “Why?” Repeat that five times (hence the Five Whys), as a way of getting closer to the core of what drives you. This is essential — not just as a personal self-awareness initiative, but as a key aspect of your business plan.

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