I call myself an Ideas Man, because I come up with ideas all the time. They’re not all good or great, but the stream is never-ending. In this post I’m going to share with you 10 different ways that I use to come up with great ideas.
Many people find it hard to come up with great ideas. That may be because they rarely have a reason to have to conjure them up. You might have to come up with ideas for work related issues, or you may just have a personal problem at home that you’re stumped on. It doesn’t matter…
One thing you’ll find is that the more you practice coming up with ideas, the easier they’ll come to you. Also you’ll want to be able to come up with a lot of them to filter the bad, from the good, and only be left with the great ones.
There is only one thing you need to come up with great ideas and that’s an open mind, if you have a closed mind it will be tougher for your mind to be open to receiving them.
After reading this post, you’ll have no problem coming up with endless ideas. Just try any one or more of the following 10 suggestions,
This is easier said than done. Henry Ford said “thinking is the hardest thing there is, that’s why so few people do it.” Albert Einstein was rumored to have spent long hours staring out the window of his office comtemplating a problem. Both of these geniuses were not wasting time, they were thinking…it’s valuable time well spent.
2. Think hard, and then don’t do anything
This is similar to the first step, but with a twist. It works like muscle conditioning, but applied to your brain. Muscles only grow when challenged. The process goes something like this: muscles tear, learn and get stronger for the next time.
I believe the same principal can be applied to the brain to produce great ideas. Put extreme pressure on the brain, in one long hard thinking session. Think all day…and then just let go…don’t put pressure on yourself to produce a handful of ideas at the end of the session, just kick up your feet and do nothing!
Which brings me to the next point…
When you try to force yourself to think it’s tough for your brain to spew out great ideas under pressure.
The way I personally view the pressure to produce good ideas at work or at home is like this:
I use visualization. I picture my brain with a vice clamped onto it. In order to relax I picture myself easing up on the vice, allowing my brain to breathe. I take deep breaths from my diaphragm, I sit outside on a park bench in the sun. I do whatever I have to do to relax my mind. Once your mind is relaxed it will now be open to allowing great ideas to enter inside.
4. Take a shower
As cliché as at sounds, it works. You’ve probably heard people say this a thousand times “I get the best ideas when I’m in the shower”. The longer, the hotter, the better! This could follow your thinking sessions in steps 1, and 2.
Why does this work? I’m not really sure, but I bet it’s for the same reason chicken soup works for a cold. Nobody really knows why it works but it does, that’s why people suggest it all the time.
5. Always have a capturing device on hand
Once the great ideas start coming to you, you won’t be able to control when they come…in the shower, at the park, in your car.
Don’t make the mistake of not having a capturing device. I used to always tell myself “I will make a mental note to myself, and remember my great idea”. My memory has failed me, every time! I’ve never been able to recall the mental note I made to myself at a later date.
Always have a notepad, an ipod, and a pen…always walk, or drive, or commute with a capturing device and a back up capture device if the first one fails! (example pen clogged, or ipod battery drained).
6. Read books on coming up with great ideas
There are a lot of books out there that you could read, I don’t want you to go out and spend a lot of money, but here are two book suggestions that I consider classics that I found at a used bookstore.
One is a short read called, A Technique For Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. In advertising circles it’s a classic, it’s less than 50 pages long and can probably be read in 15 minutes.
The other, is another classic from the late 70’s called, A Whack On The Side of The Head by Roger Von Oech, I see this book all the time in used bookstores for less than $5.
These are not the only two books out there that can help you come up with creative ideas but they are a starting point. I’ve used them as an example because they are right in front of me in my book collection, and are top of mind.
7. Write down Random thoughts
I’ve been writing down random thoughts for years. I have dozens of notepads, notebooks, post-its, journals, and scrap pieces of paper all in a box, word docs, text docs, live journal posts. I don’t throw out, or delete anything! These are golden thoughts for me. All these notes are valuable. Sometimes I will revisit this box of notes or archived folder on my hard drive and come up with a new idea based on something I wrote years ago.
8. Make a mind map
Mind maps are the brain-child of Tony Buzan. For those of us who are non-linear thinks and don’t want to limit ourselves to notepads and making lists, mindmaps are a good alternative.
They are basically visual brainstorming, and supposed to mimic the way our brain connects ideas and thoughts. You start with a piece of paper draw a circle in the middle, draw lines all around the circle linking to new circles when you come up with anything related to the original circled thought, and when you’re finished you’ll have a visual web of inter-connected ideas and thoughts as a resource. It easier to look at than to explain here. Just google mind maps for thousands of examples.
I know many of you are groaning, “but I can’t draw”. You don’t have to be an artist to doodle. Actually, you don’t even have to pay attention as you draw!
Just grab a pen or a pencil and a blank piece of paper and start to draw as you ponder the thought of coming up with ideas. Just let your hand do the drawing, don’t think too hard about the process, or whether something doesn’t look right. Why? Because you’ll stop drawing.
Here’s a tip! Doodle while on the phone. When you’re done you may have drawn or doodled a great idea, or maybe not. The point is to have fun with it!
I left brainstorming until the end on purpose. I didn’t just want to write it as the first suggestion, because it’s the default answer that everybody assumes that you have to do to come up with great ideas.
Let’s just brainstorm! or have a brainstorming session! If you would have read this suggestion first, you may have not had an open mind to read the other 9 suggestions that followed.
How do you brainstorm? You, or a group of people just start throwing out any idea that comes to mind verbally, and then you record them on paper. It’s that easy! It’s how I came up with my 10 suggestions, but I wanted to give you as many options as possible.
I could probably come up with 10 more, but that’s another post.
I hope the list above jumpstarts your brain into producing great ideas, and if you have a great suggestion to add to this list please share them with the rest of us in the comments below.