“You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
This is part 2 of the 2-part series on How to Generate New Ideas. Read Part-1 here.
8. Meet And Hangout With People Who Are Outside Your Circle Of Friends
“Chance favors the connected mind.”― Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
Are you accustomed to meeting the same circle of friends? If yes, you may need to expand your reach and connect with people who are quite different from your sphere or tribe.
You might just be surprised at how many new perspectives and ideas you can generate from people who you least expected to be of any value or interest.
When different people meet, ideas collide with one another and can generate new ideas. In his TED talk, Steven Johnson describes that coffee shops or cafes were great idea generation machines historically and lead to the period known as The Enlightenment.
According to Johnson, coffee houses were a great stage for people to get together from different backgrounds and there would the mix-up and sharing of various ideas.
If you feel like you require new ideas, go out.
Go to the local coffee stores and the local art districts.
Go on a nature hike with people from a hiking club.
Go to the local farmers markets and interact with people.
The idea is to mingle with people and perspectives that are quite different from yours.
Meet someone for lunch or coffee that is not in your circle of friends or colleagues.
Actively network with people who do not seem to serve you or do not seem to be of any immediate or obvious value.
9. Do Something That You Have Never Done Before
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”― Peter F. Drucker
We are all creatures of habit and at some deep brain science level, this makes perfect sense for survival from that saber-toothed lion or other mortal dangers that may have befallen humans in the past.
However, being stuck in the same habitual patterns and not attempting anything new is a great disadvantage to generating new ideas.
Do something that you have not done or do not think you are good at.
Take up a new hobby or skill such as photography or sketching.
Try out different cuisines and listen to different genres of music. Anything that breaks you out of your regular pattern is a potential for generation of new ideas.
10. Processes for Idea Generation
“Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, recombine. They want to reinvent themselves by crossing conceptual borders. They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete”― Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
Here are a few ways that you can come up with new ideas:
- Mix and match up new but similar ideas
- Connect and combine unrelated ideas
- Subtract or add something from an idea
- Brainstorm with a team and throw all ideas up a wall with no judgments or favoritism
- Use doodling and mind maps with pictures and lines
- Read magazines and books at the local library
- Listen to and follow thought leaders in your field on social media
- Subscribe to thought provoking blogs, podcasts and websites
11. Question Your Assumptions Constantly To Generate And Sustain New Ideas
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”― Isaac Asimov
If you think that you are not a creative person, question that assumption.
If you think that you are not good at generating new ideas, question that.
If you think that you do not have the resources to follow your idea, question that.
Question all your assumptions:
I should have…
I could have…
If only I was…
I don’t have the time…
Ideas are cheap…
I don’t have the money…
I am very busy…
There is too much competition…
I am not skilled enough…
I am not lucky…
There is too much competition…
Who am I fooling?
Ideas are a dime a dozen…
All of the above beliefs and assumptions prevent you from coming up and disallowing ideas to take flight and following through with them.
Once your rationalization process kicks into high gear, you are more likely to find evidence for why an idea will not work for you.
Your assumptions are usually based on single or a few unfavorable experiences that you may have had in the past. The only problem is that they might be completely untrue.
Ideas begin to flow when you begin to question the status quo and step into the field of possibility and action.
“At the heart of science is an essential tension between two seemingly contradictory attitudes–an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new.”― Carl Sagan
Become aware of self-imposed limitations and deep-seated assumptions that nip the ideation process in its bud stage.
12. Become Curious And Imaginative Like A Child..Do Not Be Afraid To Look Silly
“At beyond continent of reality, there are oceans of ideas.” ― Toba Beta
Children are unafraid of looking silly and allow imaginative ideas to take hold of them.
They are endlessly curious and look at the world from a sense of wonder and amazement.
As an adult, you may have been taught to look serious and not be “childish.” Rediscover your inner child and go where your imagination leads you and do not dismiss everything as silly or childish.
In Stanford creativity researcher, Tina Seelig’s class, there are manipulatives like a preschool so that the students can explore their creativity unhindered.
The innovation firm, IDEO is known to have carts with materials of all sort so that team members can prototype and get new ideas very quickly from materials available from them.
Tap into your inner child and creativity and be open and receptive to new ideas and most importantly go along with some of them before dismissing them too fast.
No idea is too silly or impossible. In fact, if your ideas are too generic, it may be time to push up the ante and generate ones that sound more outlandish.
13. Having A Lot Of Down Time To Incubate Those Ideas…Sleep, Rest, Relaxation And Meditation
“When I am ….. completely myself, entirely alone… or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them.” ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
There is a reason why the timeless advice is to “sleep on it.” Sleep and relaxation provide the much important “Incubation” phase of creativity where ideas collide in your mind to potentially blossom into something novel.
If you keep yourself increasingly busy and sleep deprived, you are not allowing your mind to take the time off to brew up the new synthesis and solutions.
Some of the best ideas came out of the unexpected or while in the shower or while asleep.
German chemist Friedrich August Kekulé is famously known to have discovered the ring structure of benzene in a dream where he saw a snake seizing its own tail. However, this was only possible after he studied the nature of carbon bonds for years.
According to Kekulé:
“…I was sitting writing on my textbook, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis.”
Some of the best ideas also come in inopportune moments like taking a shower or in the middle of the night when you wake up to have a drink of water.
The tune to Yesterday came to Paul McCartney in a dream.
McCartney went on to say:
“I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, ‘That’s great, I wonder what that is?’ There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th – and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically. I liked the melody a lot, but because I’d dreamed it, I couldn’t believe I’d written it. I thought, ‘No, I’ve never written anything like this before.’ But I had the tune, which was the most magic thing!”
Meditation is another wonderful method to clear the mind of needless clutter and to focus on receiving new ideas.
Get off the rat race or the race of tension and find ways to deeply relax and meditate.
14. Coming Up With More Ideas Is Better…Including The Seemingly Bad Ones
“Quantity over quality. It is more important to come up with a bunch of stuff so that some of it has a chance of being great. I would even go so far to say that going for great ideas is not a great idea because it paralyzes you. It frustrates you.” – Matthew Diffee, TEDxRedding Talk, How to get a great idea
Make a list of ideas. Then attempt to come up with a secondary list. Chances are that you will have run dry of ideas. Then try to come up with some more ideas. You may come up with really bad ones but you will not be able to see their value at that moment.
“Your greatest ideas will be accidents. You can good ones with work but you can’t get the great ones. The question is: Is that good news or bad news. I think it is both. The bad news is that you can’t make a great idea happen by working harder. The good news is that you can’t make a great idea happen by working harder. So just relax. Make your pot of coffee. Sit down. Put in your time. Do your work. Go for quantity over quality. And every now and then, a great idea will hit you right smack dab on the back of your head.” – Matthew Diffee, TEDxRedding Talk
Sometimes the bad ideas lead you into the great ones as you associate them with your experience, Skill and with other good ideas.
Watch the TEDx talk below:
There is no bad idea. Come up with a list of everything.
DO not dismiss a bad idea but allow it to synthesize and lead into or combine with other ideas to form something meaningful and useful.
Generating ideas is like a muscle. Flex it more to produce more ideas. And a lot of ideas certainly beats having just a few.
“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” – Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winner and one of the founders of quantum chemistry and molecular biology
Bonus: #15 Make Your Environment Support And Promote The Chance Of Idea Formation
It is not a coincidence that companies like Google and IDEO consistently come up with great ideas. They carefully and creatively design their workspaces to maximize idea formation and the cross-pollination of disparate and eclectic ideas.
Set up your workspace to reflect your personal design and creative sensibilities. Your work area at home and at work should allow you to naturally transition into the creative, idea generation mood.
The good news is that if your workspace does not inspire you, you can change it up to allow it to promote your process of idea formation. Here is a great post on workspaces of famous creative people.
Different people learn and process information and generate ideas differently. Some are kinesthetic learners while others are auditory or learn better by sound or others still by sight or visual stimuli.
Set up your workspace and incorporate rituals and habits that have allowed you to generate idea formation.
Change up the environment to increase idea flow.
Pay attention to tone, mood, music, color, sights, pictures, objects and tools that facilitate idea generation.
Experiment with different modalities of learning, processing and idea generation such as sight, sound and touch.
Here is the Slideshare presentation:
Now over to you. What are some of the ways that you generate and implement new ideas? Please let me know in the comments below!