Almost everybody want to have better ideas and lots of them. You hear all sorts of analogies when it comes to producing better ideas, “think outside the box”, “look at it from another angle”, etc. All of them have their validity but often leaves you feeling drained and stupid.
Why can’t I think outside the box? What is the box? Where is the “other” angle? Are creativity and idea creation perhaps for a select few? A rare breed of creative geniuses? I say definitely not. Armed with a few new ideas you can become more creative than you ever have been before. And the good news is that it’s not very difficult and it can be fun too.
The biggest problem with not coming up with new and better ideas is that your brain is basically lazy. It will keep to the same thinking patterns as much as it can.
Keeping to the same thinking will produce more of the same types of ideas. The revolutionary ideas will not likely come at all. The reason your brain sticks to the same thought patterns is that you are feeding it the same kind of input all the time. More of the same input will make sure that your brain sticks to the same thought patterns. A second very important component in idea creation is volume. Not every idea you get will be brilliant, but by increasing the number of ideas you will naturally increase the number of good ideas as well. Quite simple really.
So, now we know that to create better ideas we need to change our thought patterns and at the same time generate more ideas. You need to change the input, without changing the input you will be stuck.
Here are 5 ways to get new input that will have you creating more and better ideas continuously.
1. Choose a new way to get to work.
This may seem like a small thing, but by going out of your way to find new ways to get to work you are changing your input naturally. You will see new things, think about new things and make new connections.
2. Ask a child how they would solve a problem.
Children are not stuck in their ways the same way as adults can be. To them everything is possible. Even if the solution they present is not perfect or even practical it is very likely that it will spark new ideas in your own head.
3. Pick a random magazine to read.
Computer programmers have their own favorite magazines, architects know which magazines are hot for architecture and so on. The problem with this is that everybody will be subject to the same stream of ideas. By going into a magazine store and randomly picking a magazine that might be about knitting and then actually reading it you will most likely find that the things you are thinking about have been solved already in another domain. Free ideas (except for the price of the magazine)!
4. Force yourself to make connections.
This is a little game you can play with yourself, pick random things around your house (or even better, out of a bag) and force yourself to make connections between the object and the problem or project you are working on. Keep doing it for 10-15 minutes and see what happens.
5. Self impose limits.
By imposing limits on yourself your brain will have to work overtime and really get out of its own patterns. If you work with tools, remove the tool you use most frequently and ask yourself how you can accomplish a task in this new situation. Or, why not force yourself to explain a problem without using “shop talk”.
The ideas above can of course be refined and substituted for lots of other ideas. As long as what you do forces new input on you, you will benefit. Also remember that it will be up to you to sort through and pick the best ideas. At least this way you will have more of them and they will be influenced by a larger space of knowledge and that is the key.