Sometimes ideas come quickly, and other times they can seem harder to find. Sometimes it can feel like there are too many ideas, and other times, not enough. At other times, ideas can feel like they have escaped you.
In her book, Big Magic, writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, characterises ideas as having ‘consciousness’ and ‘will’. To her, ideas are driven by a single impulse – to come to life.
She writes: “…the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual. Therefore, ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners”.
The thought of conceptualising ideas like this may feel like a stretch for you.
However, there’s no doubt that ideas swirl around, and sometimes you can miss them. Perhaps you’ve read an article or purchased something and thought, ‘I had the idea to do that’, yet your idea didn’t come to life.
It can help to consider where and when you source your best ideas, so you are giving idea generation the attention it deserves. You can group idea generation into four key themes – Create, Collaborate, Collect and Critically think – each of which spawns a multitude of activities you can use to aid your idea generation.
Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. As I’ve written about before (Innovation is not limited to just “creative” people), we all have creative forces within us. It’s about giving yourself time and tapping into it.
Do something new each week
Structure your week so that you are frequently doing something new. It can be as simple as taking a new route to work or reading a book from a different genre. It can be playing a new game or sport. While routines and habits are helpful, you don’t want everything you do every day (or week) to be the same.
Take time out
There’s a reason why many of our best ideas come to the fore when we are relaxed. You need to give your brain time to wonder and ponder. Daydreaming isn’t a waste of time.
Spend time in nature
We rejuvenate when we are in nature, so bathe yourself in the beauty and awe of the natural environment. Sit. Listen. Be still. You may be amazed at what arises.
We learn from others – all the time. Don’t limit yourself to learning from people you see as ‘like you’. You want to go for depth and breadth.
In reverse mentoring, you swap the traditional mentee and mentor roles. Senior leaders adopt the mentee role, while younger generations step into the mentor role – sharing their ideas and insights on a range of relevant topics.
Young people are often not as burdened by convention and are more willing to ask the so-called (but often not) ‘dumb question’. They will raise issues that you may not see because they view the world differently. They are also an excellent data source if you want to keep up to date with the latest trends, shifts in consumer behaviour and technology platforms.
Embrace cognitive diversity
People often think about diversity in terms of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation and age, but it also extends to how people think and decide.
Surround yourself with people who have different experiences to share. Their experiences can challenge your assumptions and spark new ideas.
Ideas are all around us, and they take time to germinate. Ideas are often pieced together from fragments of information from different sources. It’s the connection of those random ideas or unstructured thoughts that, in time, prove invaluable.
It’s essential to have a process of collecting and storing data and information that may, in time, prove useful.
Curate and store
Set up processes for sourcing information, whether you use curating tools such as Pocket and Google Alerts and then store the information in a readily available way. For example, Evernote or OneNote.
Here are some helpful articles to add to that list:
- Where do ideas come from?
- It’s not always a eureka moment
- 40 books to unlock your creativity and get you started on your life’s best work
Learn from others
Ideas can be based on an invention, an improvement on an existing product/service, or an adaptation of what currently exists.
Look around you and see what’s missing, what’s working and what could be improved.
4. Critically think
The noted economist John Maynard Keynes once said: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones“.
Deep thinking takes time and in a busy, busy world where you rush from meeting to meeting and event to event, you may not be giving yourself enough time.
Create space for thinking
You need dedicated space to think, ponder, reflect and analyse so ideas can germinate and flourish. Finding that time doesn’t happen by accident. It takes deliberate planning and conscious thought. It’s dreaming and imagining possibilities. It’s recognising the value that stems from what on the outside can appear like doing nothing.
Be open to challenge
Leadership that is fit for the future is about unlearning, adapting and learning. Leaders need people around them who challenge how they think and, consequently, help disrupt their default thinking patterns. It also requires a willingness to recognise that you never have all the answers.
As author Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) said “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope”.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The award-winning author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.