“Yeah, or you could just do…” Ever hear that from someone after you told them your business idea? It’s the knee-jerk reaction of dismissing an idea simply because it’s possible to do something similar already. Here’s some examples:
“It would be cool if there was a site where you could connect and share updates and photos with just your college friends.”
“Yeah, or you could use MySpace and Flickr.”
“What if I made a search engine that used links to rank pages?”
“You could just use Yahoo.”
“What if I made some better blogging software and hosted people’s blog’s for free?”
“Yeah, but you could just use Movable Type and Typepad.”
But businesses can succeed just being easier to use. The amount of people who do something is inversely proportional to how easy it is to do. Make something easier and you’ve got more customers.
Every chemical compound in nature has an inherent internal energy depending on its structure. When chemicals react they change their structure and thus their energy, usually a lower energy. Everything in nature strives to have the lowest possible energy. Yet reactions cannot proceed without the addition of some extra energy, even when the reaction would produce a lower energy overall. This added energy is called activation energy, it is the energy required to activate the reaction.
Chemical reactions are chaotic and seemingly random, but the lower the activation energy the more likely the reaction is to happen.
Every choice a person could make has an activation energy. It’s a lot more complex in people than in chemicals; instead of energy our activation depends on factors like our desire of the outcome, our desire and ability to change, and the difficulty of that change.
The lower the activation energy of a choice the more likely we are to make that choice. If you want something really bad, chances are that you’re going to try and get it. If you embrace change you’re more likely to choose change. If something is easy to do you’re more likely to do. We see this principle in action all the time. It’s the reason that if you want to stop eating junk food the first thing to do is to stop buying junk food. By making it more difficult to eat junk food (by adding the extra step of driving to the store and buying it) we end up eating less of it.
The former two factors are internal, but the latter is external: it depends on your environment. Businesses can change the environment a lot more readily than they can people. They can change the environment by making their product easier to use and more accessible. That’s why it doesn’t matter that something can already be done as long as you make it easier to do. You can find lots of great business ideas just by looking at all the cool things people are doing with a lot of time, ingenuity, and hacks. Take what those people are doing and figure out how to make it easier so more people can do it, they’ll gladly pay for it