Ideas are important.
Without ideas, progress isn’t made, and change doesn’t happen.
As humans we place so much importance on ideas that we even have a diverse range of terms to describe the moment ‘divine inspiration’ hits - from the ‘flash of genius,’ ‘eureka’ moments, to ‘epiphanies.’
But where do good ideas really come from? That’s the million-dollar question, right? Sometimes it feels as if some people are born brimming with ‘bright ideas’ that could change the world, or at the very least be turned into successful business ventures. But do they have a process that helps them revolutionize their ideas?
Here’s some tips we practice that could also help you wake up your best ideas yet – it’s like a shot of espresso for creative thought.
People rarely have a ‘light bulb’ moment while sitting home alone, staring at a blank computer.
Good ideas, for the most part, don’t come from inside someone’s head. Instead, they come from outside, specifically from social interaction.
In fact, history clearly reveals just how ground-breaking a chat over a simple cup of coffee can be. Did you know the creation of coffee houses in the 17th century heralded in the Age of Enlightenment?
Coffeehouses broke down social barriers and enabled people of extremely varied backgrounds and interests to get together, and bounce ideas around. These ideas were then stitched together to create revolutionary new ideas.
This unique, social environment inspired innovation. How? Well, when we come together to debate ideas, we pool together our knowledge, talents and insights. Debate challenges our thought process and forces us to evaluate ideas from different perspectives. This helps us build upon good ideas together and quickly reject bad ideas aside. Come to think of it, the original coffeehouses sound a bit like creative agencies, right?
The coffee house example leads us onto our second suggestion – why you should create or choose an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration and creativity.
Every textbook on creativity affirms to the importance of setting aside clearly defined time for creative thinking and innovation. Therefore, the next ’golden rule’ of creative thinking is very simple: allocate time - it could be an hour per day or just once a week - to exercise creative thinking about something specific.
Some leading organisations already allocate 20 percent of their time to creative thinking or new projects. This type of workplace culture fosters creativity, proximity, diversity and interaction, and experimentation and prototyping. And by surrounding yourself with teammates that have come to do the same thing as you, certainly acts as a motivator.
You don’t have to dream up a completely new product or way of doing business.
In fact, the brain has trouble generating content out of thin air.
Instead, you can improve on something you are already familiar with. Great ideas are usually the combination or mutation of an idea that has already been brought to life.
The brain has an easier time breaking, bending, or connecting exemplars into new ideas. Many good innovators take an existing object and ask clever questions to twist the very concept of it and make it new. Take Steve Jobs for example. He didn’t start with the idea of a smartphone. Instead, he took an existing cell phone and asked a very simple question,
"How can we improve it to make it better – or the best?”
A great way to encourage this type of thinking is through the ‘What if’ method. For example,
“Would happen if it changed different parts of an object (the object/ system/ social relationship, etc)?”
"What would I change or improve about this object if I wanted to use it in 10 years?”
What if – the possibilities are endless.
Often people ‘give up’ when faced with obstacles.
Many people have a ‘thinking error,’ they believe creativity needs freedom to thrive. In fact, the opposite is true. Rules, constraints, and limitations force you to think creatively, or ‘outside the box.’
They provide a focus and a creative challenge that motivates people to search for a solution and connect information from different sources to generate novel ideas for products, services or business processes. In contrast, when your brain isn’t being challenged by constraints you often see complacency set in and people follow what psychologists call the path-of-least-resistance – essentially, we have to fight our brains natural impulse to take the easy route if we want to see our creativity flourish.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, perfectly summed this up when he said:
”I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”
Challenge yourself, embrace creativity and collaboration. Reinvent existing ideas, gather new insights and perspectives – even embrace constraint. Your ‘eureka’ moment is just around the corner.
We believe your best ideas are yet to come. But sometimes we all need some expert advice along the way.
Reach out and talk to us if you want to create better experiences for your customers. Our ideas come from across our full range of experts, so contact us to book a session firstname.lastname@example.org