There are a lot of different techniques and methods to come up with new ideas. In this post, we’ll go over some ways you can start refining your idea generating process. The most important part about creating ideas is the input and process surrounding them. The idea itself is not the important part, mainly because the majority of ideas will be unfeasible, weird, or just plain dumb. But that’s okay!
The goal of generating ideas is not to increase the overall quality of your ideas, but to just generate more ideas.
Dispel your Preconceived Notions
Don’t worry if your ideas are dumb. Consider every idea you have and write them down. Get a notebook or a journal and write down every idea you have – even if it is just a brief thought.
The goal here is to dispel the notion that amazing ideas are created in a vacuum. For every good idea, there are thousands of dumb ideas that were generated before hand. The problem is you never know if one of those dumb ideas you had will combine with another idea to form the solid foundation to the next big thing.
The conclusion: journal all of your ideas and thoughts. Even if your thought is that you just saw something cool one day, write it down. Then, take some time every week to review your journal. You might find that some ideas fit together like puzzle pieces, or mix together to form new ideas.
Add Some New Input
A great way to generate new ideas is to read books, magazines, newspapers, online articles, and blog posts. Don’t just read things that interest you – read a few articles about a subject you are not familiar with. Check out the latest innovations in different fields.
The point here is that you want to get some well rounded knowledge about the world and connect the dots between disparate ideas. Try combining two ideas in odd ways. See what sticks.
Always Look for Inspiration
Another tip for coming up with ideas is to always be looking for inspiration and be ready to take some notes. Have a little notebook with you, or simply use your phone to jot done ideas you have. Try rejecting the obvious when you are thinking about the “why” behind things and look for more creative solutions. Try combining opposing elements – connect two random and opposing items.
Techniques for Brainstorming
When brainstorming by yourself or with others, do not judge the ideas. Brainstorming is not the time for critical feedback. Get all of your ideas out in the open, no matter how dumb, silly, or unrealistic. The goal of a brainstorming session should be to come up with as many ideas as possible. Aim for quantity, not quality.
A good technique for coming up with ideas while brainstorming is to use the technique: Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono. In this technique, you and the other participants of the brainstorming session “wear” different colored hats, each with their own way of generating ideas:
- White Hat – gather info and facts
- Red Hat – think using emotions, and intuition.
- Black Hat: think using risk assessment
- Yellow Hat: look at things positively and logically
- Green Hat: be creative, think of new ideas and alternatives
- Blue Hat: define problems
Another technique is the 5 Whys technique. Ask why and answer it 5 times to get to the root of the problem. Challenge your preconceived notion about what ever problem you are thinking about and dig deeper. Start with an element that you know an answer to, start digging with “Whys”.
Books to Help You Think
The following are some books that we recommend. These can help you think about new ideas, and about the process of generating ideas:
- Teach Yourself to Think by Edward de Bono – this book goes through a simple 5 step process to help clear your mind of distractions
- Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono – how does creativity work? How do we step outside of logical thinking?
- A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young – A step-by-step technique for sparking breakthrough creativity in advertising–or “any” field