I know, this is a very open-ended question, but hear me out please.
I'm a 17 year old boy, and I'd really like to start a business based on an idea.
I've had lots of ideas, probably a dozen or more, from fold-up rulers to fit in a pencil case to plug-in dimmers, all of which I've never seen before, but I always find that they're created already when I do a Google search.
So I'd like to ask whether you have any tips on getting ideas that aren't already out there. Should I just continue thinking up ideas and hope that I come up with something new?
Your best chance for an invention that doesn't already exist is to think up something really stupid. It can't just be a bit stupid, that's probably already out there (eg. MS Windows). It needs to be really really stupid. Then there is a good chance it's unique.
You may however learn that finding an invention that doesn't already exist isn't really the best way to start a business.
I would recommend find something people need, and make that. It doesn't have to be unique, people might need a better something. Then you can get the existing somethings, improve upon it and make it better.
Focus on making something people need (and hopefully would pay for), rather than trying to find a unique invention.
There is no right answer to this question but the main goal when running a business is to answer customers' needs.
You should just live your life trying to know what's missing and what you could do to answer those needs.
Last point: every business doesn't require a new and innovative idea. Some business are just taking other's ideas and making them better.
To conclude, just try to see what's missing or what could be improved.
Hope this helps !
Join your communities -- See what people need, and by what people need, you can look in the direction of "What people are currently hating.."
What are people complaining about on Twitter? Facebook? Some community forum (local to your vicinity or not/international) -- Join design forums, tech forums, coding forums -- Check out add-ins for our current browsers and see how you might find inspiration there -- check app comments in iTunes or Playstore -- True, it isn't so easy to come up with something original.. and when you do, it might take a while to create so someone else might beat you to it (some ideas can be conjured up by maybe one person per continent, who knows?)
-- so use media -- or ask around.. find what people don't like.. not necessarily need.. but don't like..
Wasn't it Albert Einstein who said something like
99% perspiration, 1% inspirationSince being a creative person will lead you to find - and invent - many more ideas than you can possibly implement in your lifetime (says me @ 54 yrs :) , you have to figure out a method to trim these good ideas down to the best ones. From those, whinny them down the the best of the best. Some folks say if you have 100 good ideas, only one or two of them will pan out. Rough statistics, but generally accurate.
As others here have mentioned in various ways, you can go about finding problems many people have. Focus on those ten or so solutions that you and your friends think have the most potential. And (perhaps somewhat sadly) "potential" here means "marketability". Coming up with a good, workable solution to that Number One problem is only the beginning of a long road.
Keep a journal, or log book.
Stay happy, don't give up.
Dream and believe in yourself (when no one else does :)
SWEAT ! and did I say S W E A T ?