Trying to come up with ideas be it a creative project, content ideas, marketing ideas or naming something can seem daunting at first. I see people in groups and forums, asking others for input on a few ideas or asking if anyone else has any ideas for them.
But coming up with amazing ideas does not need to be hard or complicated or near impossible. It just requires a process, a bit of audacity and some headspace.
The process of coming up with creative ideas
We often put too much pressure on our minds. Almost trying to force an idea out, expecting it should just happen. But great ideas require a process. Even when we don’t consciously use a process, we are still subconsciously going through one to come up with an idea. Our brain will ‘work through’ thoughts to generate an idea.
So here is how to consciously go through the process to help generate ideas:
- It starts with brainstorming or brain dumping. Start getting initial thoughts, concepts and keywords down. It helps to put everything down, even the things you won’t use because anything has the potential to trigger a better idea or be built upon to create something better. Just get it all out!
- Then comes research. This can be using your minds own memory bank to see what thoughts, memories or knowledge are triggered by your brainstorming. Pick out keywords in your brainstorming, what things do you think of associated with that word or thought. Or look up keywords in google, on Pinterest, in magazines and books, in forums or even a thesaurus or encyclopedia.
- Map out and collate your research. If you are researching words or thoughts, use a mind map. If you are using visual reference and research create a mood board.
But what is a mind map?
A mind map is a simple graphical way to represent and generate ideas and concepts. A visual thinking tool for structuring and analysing information and thoughts to generate new ideas.
A mind map starts with the subject in the middle, and then all the main subjects or ideas developed off it, and then the further ideas and thoughts coming off them, and onward as far as you want to go.
Having some audacity and being fearless in your idea generation
When working on generating some ideas from your idea process, it is important to do so fearlessly.
- Write out every idea you have even if they sound silly or stupid. Sometimes these silly ideas can actually trigger better ideas.
- Play with words. Get creative and silly. Play on words, use alliterations, word associations and puns. Be playful and have fun, as this can lead to great concepts.
- Do not be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t get hung up on the idea of perfection or needing the best idea ever. This will only paralyse you and prevent you from having any ideas at all. A lot of the greatest inventors in history made a lot of mistakes and had a lot of bad ideas before making their great ideas and discoveries.
- And this leads me to my ‘The first Pancake‘ theory. When you cook Pancakes it is a well-known fact that the first one on the pan often doesn’t go too well, but then you get them right from then on. It is the same with generating ideas and doing creative work. You often need to get the dud out of your system first, just to get the ball rolling, and then once you allow yourself to get started and give yourself permission to not get it perfect right away, the better ideas start rolling in. It’s like you just need to get those duds out of your system before you can make way for the better ideas. So don’t be afraid to make the first pancake!I also find that once you get started it helps to get your mind in the right frame and mindset, making thoughts flow more easily. So just start!
You often need to get the dud out of your system first, just to get the ball rolling, and then once you allow yourself to get started and give yourself permission to not get it perfect right away, the better ideas start rolling in.
Giving Your Mind space to process and generate ideas.
Even with all the process and research and throwing ideas out there, it often helps to also give your mind space and time to processes all these thoughts. Our minds get filled with so many things in our lives, that sometimes our brains just need that time to connect the dots and pull together a great idea from all your existing knowledge and experience combined with the research and development you have done.
You need to allow you mind space and time to wander and process. Forcing ideas will only make you feel tense and stressed which is why relaxing is a great way to have ideas. As we relax and get in a calm state our brain releases dopamine, helping us to have ideas. So take a bath or shower and relax.
Walk away from it for a while, and just give your mind that space to relax and think. Remember not to force the ideas during these time though. Just take a break from coming up with ideas, and regularly relax and unwind and your brain will do the hard work for you.
You will also likely find your mind likes to do a lot of processing and thinking just as you are drifting off to sleep, and in that relaxed state. If you are actively in the process of working on ideas, you may want to keep paper and a pen or your phone handy by your bed, as it is likely your best ideas will come right as you are about to fall asleep and you don’t want to wake up in the morning unable to remember them!
It also helps to have times when there are no distractions, and just allow your subconscious to make free connections, join the dots and find solutions without anything else distracting your mind or clogging up the thought process. So other than the everyday relaxing activities such as showers and going to sleep, you could also try meditating, sitting outside and getting some sunshine (that vitamin D will also be great for your mental state), get active and exercise or go for a walk, get a facial or massage or even take a nap.
The key is to put the phone and computer down, turn off the tv and other digital distractions. Find a time when no one else is around or at least not talking to you, just switch off and allow your mind to relax, unwind and get to work.
Forcing ideas will only make you feel tense and stressed which is why relaxing is a great way to have ideas. As we relax and get in a calm state our brain releases dopamine, helping us to have ideas. So take a bath or shower and relax.
Bouncing and Rebounding of Ideas
As I said when you allow your mind time to work through ideas, it uses all your experiences, knowledge and research to form new ideas. But even greater ideas can be generated when you collaborate and bring in other minds with different life experiences, points of view and knowledge to play with.
- Find someone you can talk to about your ideas and have an ideas session bouncing around ideas together. Have a topic and brainstorm as a team.
- When you talk about ideas with another person or group of like-minded people you will often also get the rebound effect. Where one person’s idea, sparks an idea in the other, then the first person develops on that further and so on. You build on each other’s thoughts and ideas building up a bigger and better idea you would never have had on your own.
- Stop and listen. Go to places where people are discussing the topic or problem you are trying to develop an idea for and see what people are saying. What language they use, the problems they face, the things they wish they had, gaps they see in the market. This can spark ideas of how you can be the solution or things that are needed.
- Present your ideas to like-minded people who can critique and make suggestions for you. They may be able to help you tweak an idea or make suggestions on how to improve it or another direction you may want to look into.
Keep an Ideas Bank
If you have moments when the ideas just flow, and other times when you are stuck in creative block, a wise thing to do is keep a bank of ideas. Keep a notebook, journal or digital file. Whenever inspiration strikes write it down.
If you find yourself in a creative flow where the ideas are just rolling, write out a list or brain dump all those thoughts out. You may not need them right now, but you can always go back to them later.
Another great idea is to have bulk idea sessions. For example, if you are trying to come up with an idea for a blog post, rather than think of one idea, work on a few ideas at once. That way you can get your mind into the flow of idea generation and save time by getting several ideas out at once, rather than going through the process every time you need to write a post.
Learn More Ways to Cultivate Creativity
If you want more ideas for cultivating your creativity, head over to my Youtube Channel for some great videos on creativity.