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11 Simple Ways To Spark That Elusive Lightbulb Moment

It can be so frustrating when you’re dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur but the startup business ideas aren’t coming. You’re ready to get started but you’re not sure what to do for a business and all you keep reading about is how some hotshot business person just ‘had an idea’ one day and decided to go for it.

Annoying. Why can’t you be more like them?

Turns out, you can be. It just takes a little understanding of what an idea is exactly and how the brain forms them. According to James Webb Young, author of A Technique for Producing Ideas:

1. An idea is simply a new combination of old elements.
2. The ability for you to bring old elements into new combinations will depend on your ability to see relationships between things.

It stands to reason then, that:

a) The more elements (or experiences) you have had, the more opportunity you have to combine them into a new idea and;
b) The more you practice combining old elements.

So, how can you practice these two principles in your everyday life? Well, first, increase the amount of interesting and unique experiences you have and secondly start trying to combine those ideas.

To remove the obstacle of just getting started, we’ve compiled a list of 10 simple things to do to spark that elusive lightbulb moment and get your creative idea processing underway…


1. Travel

Travel helps you to explore how other people live their lives – the quirks, the routines, the symbols, and societal structures may be slightly, or significantly, different to your own. Haven’t you ever felt like you’re experiencing a new perspective on life when you’re in a different country? Travelling the world literally and metaphorically expands your horizons and opens you up to experiences that your brain can pull upon when it is in a creative mode at a future date.



2. Take a shower

Apparently taking a shower is the perfect trio of scientific creative opportunity. You’re in a relaxed state and distracted by a routine task, plus you’re getting a flood of dopamine from the enjoyment and physical sensations. These combined will often put you in a state of cognitive openness, where ideas just seem to magically pop into your mind.



3. Exercise

Exercise isn’t just good for your body and your health. It can be great for sparking business ideas. Take Tikiboo founder Faye Jobbins who came up the with idea for her unique fitness fashion designs from becoming a personal trainer.

It also worked for Nick Woodman, who founded GoPro. He got his business idea whilst surfing on an extended trip to Australia and Indonesia back in 2002. He wanted to film himself surfing, and thus the waterproof portable action camera was born.



4. Do someone a favour

Airbnb founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were looking for ways to pay their rent shortly after moving to New York and they noticed all the hotels were booked up for the Industrial Design Conference. They decided to help people struggling to find accommodation. They bought three airbeds and rented out a place to sleep with breakfast thrown in via a website they named Air Bed And Breakfast. The rest is history! Of course, this was about seizing an opportunity as well as being nice people, but you never know where a favour will lead you. Be open to doing people favours, and see what happens…



5. Soak up some culture

Looking at art has a variety of neurological benefits and stimulates intellectual engagement, a trait that, if cultivated, increases your drive to engage in ideas. When was the last time you sat in front of a big beautiful renaissance painting or wandered around a museum or gallery seeking out art that stirs something in you? Try it… it might not immediately spark that genius business idea but it will prime your brain to be ready when inspiration strikes.


Sometimes – rarely, but magnificently – there comes a day when you’re open and relaxed enough to actually receive something. Your defences might slacken and your anxieties might ease, and then magic can slip through. The idea, sensing your openness, will start to do its work on you.

Elizabeth Gilbert


6. Take an evening class

When was the last time you went to an evening class? Maybe you did yoga or spinning at the gym but what about going and learning a new practical skill? It could be something crafty like knitting or life drawing. Or, it could be something more akin to studying such as learning a language or taking a writing workshop. There’s so much scope not only to try something new but meet interesting people who could also help spark a great idea just by something they say to you…



7. Expand your social media pool

Social Media is getting a bit of a bad rap for sucking you in and keeping you addicted to your phone. But why not hack your social media to boost your idea-generating opportunities? Follow professors and academics in random fields of study on Twitter to see what they’re talking about. Seek out videos on topics you hated at school but now are curious to learn more about. Set your Instagram up for news across all sorts of areas of interest. If you’re going to be scrolling you may as well be opening up your opportunities to expand the breadth of your knowledge.



8. Reading

Reading fiction allows us to escape into other worlds and experience new things without leaving the comfort of our sofa, beds or train seats. And non-fiction gives you the chance to explore topics, opinions, and facts about every element of life on earth. Being a vast reader of all genres will increase the elements your brain can combine into new ideas. And if it’s good enough for entrepreneurs like Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates to stay creative, it’s good enough for you!



9. Watch someone else be creative

Studies of children prove that watching someone else be creative can spark creativity in the observer. Find a street artist and watch them paint. Watch live improv comedy. Even watch someone making a meal. It doesn’t matter, just find something creative to observe and absorb the experience.



10. Stop trying so hard

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks to the elusive quality of a good idea in her book Big Magic and how “sometimes – rarely, but magnificently – there comes a day when you’re open and relaxed enough to actually receive something. Your defences might slacken and your anxieties might ease, and then magic can slip through. The idea, sensing your openness, will start to do its work on you.”



11. Binge boxsets and podcasts

Pop culture has always been a wealth of inspiration for entrepreneurs. Whether watching documentaries about how your business idols built their empires or learning lessons from the big failures that have been turned into movies (FYRE festival anyone?), there are so many ideas and lessons to draw upon from box sets and movies. So stop beating yourself up for streaming your evenings away. Whilst we’re on the subject of pop-culture and giving yourself permission to indulge, don’t forget podcasts. There are so many fiction and non-fiction options to listen to. They’re a great option for travelling and background listening whilst you work. Here’s 9 to get you started.



So, as it turns out, there are plenty of ways to build and flex your idea-generating abilities. Gathering different perspectives, experiences, hobbies, and connections give your mind the opportunity to combine two or more concepts to create something new, plus they have enormous wellbeing benefits that will support your mental health.

So keep exploring the world, trying new things and living your life and before you know it the ideas will come – it’s just up to you to notice and act on it. 


For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook.

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Jen Smith

Jen Smith is an award-winning content and social media strategist and is one of our resident bloggers, with over five years writing for and supporting small businesses.

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