Your idea’s not that unique, and that’s a good thing

UNIQUE Ideas are a funny thing, they don’t really exist.

As the popular story goes, you’ll be wandering around one day and {BANG} just like that you’ll have your eureka moment. That moment of ultimate clarity, where the complexities of the world fade into the background and the solution to it all is sitting right in front of you. It’s crystal clear, it’s accessible and it’s oh so simple. So simple in fact “why hasn’t anyone done it before?” you may ask yourself. Well that’s just the thing, someone probably has!

But contrary to what you might think, this is actually a good thing.

I’ve never found ideas to be the problem, I always have ideas. I must get a eureka moment at least once a week. Not all of them are any good, that’s for sure, but some could gain traction I reckon with a bit of a push.

Some of my past genius has included:

  • Philippe – my French inspired flip-flop brand
  • Headcones – A set of quality headphones that you can personalise with your own style/ designs etc
  • Tusks – A set of skis based on the design of a Mammoth tusk. With a white gold cladding and an ivory core, these beauties would be monstrous

I would say that list makes up some of the best businesses never made!

{As a side note, if I subsequently find out any of you have gone out and created these you shall be hearing from my lawyers}

What I generally find with ideas is that I make a sweeping observation that no one has ever, in the history of man, been as forward thinking as my goodself and come up with this. I then dive head first into the validation phase, exploring the market, the opportunity and the need. Pretty swiftly I will find out my idea is not as unique as I thought. In fact, there are usually two or three variations of the idea out there and some doing it really really well. It’s about this time that I get deflated and the eureka moment fizzles out.

But, I have recently come to realise that this is the wrong approach.

It’s good for an idea not to be that unique, in fact it’s brilliant at times. 

Here is why:

If no one has done it before, is there a good reason?

When you’re going through the validation phase if you simply can’t find anyone doing the same thing, this starts to scream alarm bells.

Why isn’t it out there? Lets be honest with eachother right now, if you’re like me, you’re not that much of a visionary. Don’t kid yourself! So why hasn’t this been done? Is there no demand and therefore no market? Do costs of fulfilment outstrip any hint of a profit?

If no one is doing it, or a variation of it, at a time when the barrier to starting a business is so small and every second person has “entrepreneur” on their LinkedIn profile then that would start to cause me concern.

Sometimes you might just have to face up to it, it’s a bad idea!

If someone is already doing it then that’s a massive timesaver

Starting a business is a hell of a lot of work.

Up front there is so much to do and decide on as you identify your opportunity, your USP, validate the idea, build the product, generate stickiness etc etc All of this may even occur before you even work out how to generate any revenue from it.

If someone else is out there doing it, they have just solved a lot of problems for you. You have a working “prototype” to explore, you can pick apart their strategy, their positioning, how they monetise it and how successful they are being. You can explore forums and discussion groups where customers, and your potential market, are discussing the company/ product. You can engage with them, build up the personas of these people using real case studies and define your strategy and tactics off the back of this.

I find nothing more useful as an initial dive into a market than to take apart my competitors digital presence and break it down. From site architecture and on-site content, to their linking strategies, how they get their traffic and how they use their social outposts. What are they doing to pull me back to the site or use the product again?

There is so much information and guidance to be found from spending a few hours doing this, it answers many questions without having to take any of the risks and launch into the unknown yourself. Sure, you will have to infer some details and make informed ‘guesstimates’ on certain aspects, but it’s a hell of a lot better than starting with nothing.

It helps build momentum

I have found as I currently go through the process with that finding others out there doing similar things has both helped guide me on the course we take initially, and also becomes self-fulfilling as it builds momentum and (to borrow a phrase from my Distilled days), gets the fly-wheel spinning.

This occurs as my little assumptions are either proved or disproved quickly. This allows me to move quickly through the initial validation phases and help us get to a point where we can throw v1 out to the public to test some of our larger assumptions.

 I am working on the site in my spare time, grabbing 20 mins here and 1 hour there where I can which can mean slow going at times. Using competitor websites to help me quickly tackle questions has really helped build momentum, build confidence and refine our proposition. It has helped shape what we now believe to be our angle and lead us down new paths of discovery we didn’t realise existed at first.
Looking objectively at how others have tackled similar issues has helped us do more, much more quickly.

If no competitors existed I fear we would lack some direction still and be far behind on the project to “get it live”.

So not to worry if you find yourself charging forward with a great new plan only to realise someone might have also come to the same realisation as you. The chances are pretty high they will have, and hopefully they will have done some of the hard work for you. In most markets and most niches there is always room for innovation and improvement, few areas are so mature that we can’t bring fresh perspectives and angles to it.

Your idea may not be the most unique and innovative thing the world has ever seen, but that doesn’t mean it’s not needed and I would emplore you to act on it. The world is full of dreamers, it’s the doers who really make a difference!

Thanks for reading, would love to hear your thoughts (and feedback on my awesome business ideas above!)


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