I believe that the hardest part of the new business development process is to identify and understand the customer need (and then to determine if it is a large market opportunity). I teach my students a number of techniques or processes to use to find the customer need. One of my favorite techniques is Gerald Zeitman's seven metaphors, which I discussed in this post from June 2008. Another technique I like is what I call the Nintendo Approach, which I discussed in this post. This weekend I came across another technique--Abundance Scarcity (link).
If you are looking for a new business idea, first look at what is abundant. Automobiles are everywhere in the U.S. so let's use automobiles. Now let's look for the scarcity. Auto sales people have the lowest integrity rating of any profession in the U.S. according to several polls. People hate the process of negotiating to buy a car. The scarcity is an enjoyable, honest process to buy a car. Voila! Auto Nation! Auto Nation provides high quality used cars at a fixed price (no negotiating) and is the market leader in their industry. The customer experience at Auto Nation is much more than just "no negotiating" but the entire process reinforces an enjoyable, honest car purchase. Google might be another example. An abundance of information but a scarcity of what you wanted...until Google. This logic is still valid as evidenced by all the companies focusing on content aggregation.
Some people start entrepreneurship courses by focusing on creativity. Dr. Jeff Stamp is a good example. He has a new venture called Bold Thinking which combines his extensive experience in creativity with the value creation process in a new business concept. (More on Bold Thinking in a future post.) I prefer to start the course with techniques or processes, which I call "originality". Originality might be defined as taking existing things and putting them together differently (think Auto Nation). Few of us are going to discover penicillin or the theory of relativity, which would clearly be examples of creativity. Many of us have the ability to take things we understand and re-organize them into new concepts, particularly if one tries the techniques discussed above.
Whether you focus on creativity or originality, Marcel Prevost's quote is still true.
"You have to see the invisible to do the impossible"
If you do not understand Prevost, read about Israel Kirzner's "asymetry of information", the special skill that separates entrepreneurs from the rest of us.