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Need a Great Business Idea? Start With a Blank Piece of Paper

Need a Great Business Idea? Start With a Blank Piece of Paper
A blank piece of paper can be your greatest tool for innovation with the right mindset. / Credit: Shutterstock

A blank piece of paper (or, in today's technology-driven world, a blank document) can be a pretty intimidating sight. The pressure to be creative and fill the page with original ideas is often overwhelming for entrepreneurs, leading them to become frustrated and give up on their projects, especially if that project is coming up with a new business idea.

If you're one of those entrepreneurs who is afraid of a blank piece of paper, you'd better face your fear, and fast: That paper could be the one thing you need to gain that spark of inspiration and discover an untapped market. Michael Gerber, an entrepreneur, author, speaker and INC Magazine's "No. 1 small business guru," believes that the only two things required for entrepreneurial innovation are an empty page and what he calls a "beginner's mind." This mindset, which Gerber teaches entrepreneurs to do in his 12-week program called The Dreaming Room, is all about learning how to start fresh and innovate — every single time.

"To innovate, you must constantly invent," Gerber told BusinessNewsDaily. "You don't invent by fixing what you've already created. You start with blank paper and ask questions in a way you've never asked them. Forget about the past, the job you have or don't have, and your career. It isn't anything that you have stored up. Start with what you haven't seen yet."

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Gerber said that a successful entrepreneur must simultaneously be a dreamer, a thinker, a storyteller and a leader who is able to pursue the impossible and the unknown. He offered these three tips to help current and potential business owners open their minds and use a blank piece of paper to their advantage.

Lay the groundwork for tomorrow. Modesty is often seen as a virtue, but if you're an entrepreneur, it's a tragic flaw. They see their business as a means of doing their work autonomously. They get by, and see this as a win. What if Steve Jobs' ambition was to simply make electronics a little bit better? He started out with only $5,000, but he also had a grand vision that he believed in. Don't be so mired in today that you don't lay the groundwork for infinite possibilities tomorrow.

Find people who match your skill set. A small business starts with an idea, but too often, the idea is building that business around the execution of a talent or technical skill the entrepreneur has. While this may create the means for self-employment, it closes off the avenues for growth. When a business owner doesn't trust others to get the work done, he or she can't pull away to develop new ideas, products and opportunities to grow. Hire people who can replicate the technical aspects of what you do so you're free to explore, experiment and test.

Make sure everyone is working toward the same goal. A small business is a system in which all parts contribute to the success or failure of the whole. A human body cannot move forward unless all parts cooperate. If your employees are working toward different goals, they’re not only not moving the business forward, they’re not playing as a team. Foster creativity, enthusiasm and energy by clearly communicating the dream and the importance and value of each person’s contribution toward it.

"I invite people to participate in a process that will open the door to the original mind, to the creator within," Gerber said. "Creativity is chaos and constantly challenges the status quo. It's what lives in the heart of kids, and it always begins with the unknown. Living in the unknown is challenging and can provoke fear, but it can also provoke extraordinary innovation."

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and now leads Purch's B2B copy and production team. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.