How to Generate Great Ideas


In these economic times, you need to cultivate the ability to generate ideas, today and every day. Your career or your business’ survival and growth depends upon it. However, innovation, getting new ideas, reinventing yourself, your business, your products does not require you to be a genius, or an artist. 

Ideas are the fuel that drives a business forward, and in this article I will share with you my techniques for generating new ideas. This is not about brainstorming methods or the “how to use a brick 10 different ways”. What I wish to share with you are simple techniques that I use to reframe the way I look at things…a short course in “How to think outside of the box when sitting inside the box”!

Feed your brain 
Great ideas don’t spring from a vacuum. You have to give your brain a wholesome diet of new ideas every day. Here are some easy ways:

1. Participate in online forums so you see what other people are dreaming up, complaining about, questioning.
2. Put keywords from your areas of interest into search engines and view the search results – then see what these websites have to say.
3. Read books and articles outside your area of expertise and interest.
4. Look at books in the children's section of the bookstore or library. As we all know, children have a very different and unique point of view about the world.
The above 4 suggestions will help you obtain new material and develop new points of view.

Read biographies 
Biographies show you how inventors came up with their inventions, what motivated an explorer to explore what he did, how a scientist got that “Aha” moment in his lab, or how an artist’s method of creating led to something spectacular. They reveal the secrets of these methodologies.

Suspend your sense of reality
Dare to daydream. Take a topic and look at it from an outrageous angle. Ask “what if…gravity were suspended, there were no need for sleep, etc. 

Play in cyberspace
Search engines are your best friends when you need to generate ideas. Do a search on an outrageous idea/concept and see what comes up. Go off the beaten cyberpath. Click on links that sound interesting, explore!

Use the old to generate the new
Sometimes it’s doing new things, or doing old things in new ways that lead to that aha moment. Pay attention to things that annoy you. Challenge the status quo.
Here is a great example I came across:
Back in the days of typewriters, the mother of Monkees guitarist Mike Nesmith got tired of retyping to correct mistakes. So Bette Nesmith cooked up the first batch of Liquid Paper in a blender and poured it into a nail-polish container. She eventually sold the business to Gillette for $48 million.

Take an existing approach and simply flip it around
Instead of doing something one way, why not try it the other way around? Sometimes it will work worse, other times better. Or you might find that the reverse approach will solve a different problem. For example: Lay’s potato chips had the slogan “Betcha can’t eat just one.” Try turning this around: How about a chip where you can eat just one? Indeed, Frito-Lay has started to offer its chips in portion-control packages. 

Open your eyes and “plagiarize” 
The idea is to look around you and see how things are done in other countries or contexts. What smart solutions already exist, and how can they be adapted or adopted for your problem?

Every week schedule “idea generation time”
Practice makes perfect. Do it now before you need to do it. Get together with friends to see how many really wacky, out of this world ideas you come up with for a topic. Make it a game.

Make sure you’re having fun
The whole point of learning how to generate ideas is to lay the groundwork of the method before the stress of actually needing the ideas kicks in. Dancers don’t practice new pieces in front of a paying audience, neither should you learn how to generate ideas when deadlines and budgets loom. Remember that stress and fear are mind killers.

Now that we have some tactics and techniques down and you are getting the feel for the process, start working on your real problems and needs. After all, you are learning to do this in order to make yourself more successful (fill in whatever your need is for generating ideas) not just building castles in the air. You want to come up with innovative ideas that you can then turn into value-creating profitable business activities. But you’ll also be surprised as to how much more enriched your life becomes once you’ve learned how to see things in a different way.

Need a new spin on old copy? New copy for a new product or service? Let the “Word Wizard” come to your rescue and generate great copy ideas that will enchant your readers and motivate them to action. Call 908-241-5874 or e-mail Beyond-Words@att.net NOW!

                                                                               c 2008 Leona M Seufert