Many people think that certain personality profiles, or hemispheres of the brain, either make someone creative and good at ideas, or not. It’s like you are either creative, or you’re technical, but you can’t be both. I don’t agree with this. I think creating and curating great ideas is a learnable skill; a practice that you get better at the more you practice. As soon as you tell yourself you aren’t creative and you can’t come up with ideas, you let yourself off the hook of the struggle, you avoid failure, and you make that your reality. It’s not that you can’t, it’s that you didn’t or you won’t.
You’ve learned to communicate. You’ve learned to empathise. You’ve learned great skills you didn’t have a year or a decade ago. And so you can learn to come up with great ideas regularly. Cultivating this skill will solve your problems faster, make you a higher value person of influence, make you more money, and build your confidence that you can survive and thrive no matter what life throws at you.
Here are 11 ways to have lots of great ideas:
1. Encourage bad ideas
You are likely to have more bad ideas than good ones. You don’t know if your good idea will be the 1st or the 50th idea you have, and often it is hidden between many bad ideas. So having good ideas is about have many bad ideas. It’s a game of numbers and volume. Many people fear making a mistake or being judged, don’t allow ideas to flow, and as such never have any good ones. Allow ideas to flow, and…
2. Don’t judge them
At the idea stage, do not judge ideas or the people who are supplying them. The stage for viability, critical analysis, testing, decision and action comes much later. But it never comes if you don’t have a good flow of ideas. They will flow more if you don’t judge yourself, the idea or other people, and the confidence will compound the flow. Often the best ideas are the craziest, so allow yourself to have some fun and chuck out some crazy ideas. Push yourself thorough lean spells as often your best ideas are hidden deep, otherwise you’d have had them already.
Don’t own them just let them out
Who cares who came up with the idea? Ok, if it’s a billion pound patent, then it does matter, but otherwise don’t hold tight onto owning an idea. Instead let others run with it, add to it, change it and create hybrids from it.
3. Let others take a claim on your ideas
If you let others own your ideas they will commit to making it a success, conversely if you steal ideas from others they will resist and resent you. You want as many people as you can to help bring your ideas to life (and money), so to gain control and traction give up ownership. To get the credit, give the credit.
4. The right environment
Being in a space that is light, cool and open is important to release great ideas. Have space to write, where everyone can see each other and be involved. Often off site is best because there are no distractions and temptations. In addition to the physical environment, you need the personal and emotional environment of trust, fun, energy, no fear of failure, no theft of ideas and to know that you won’t be shot down in front of others.
5. Build on others ideas; like a jamming session
Once you have the environment and trust, then ideas will start to flow. They won’t all come out right, but there may be bits and pieces of ideas that have legs that others can run with. Allow your ideas to be passed around like a rugby ball. Let others test and play with them and see what new horizons you reach.
6. Be a facilitator of debate
Encourage open debate. Your job is to guide, give gentle direction to ensure you stay relevant and on theme. Anything else goes. Encourage everyone to get involved, ask questions that get others into a creative mindset, get them to expand, explain and explore.
Pretty much everything is a hybrid of a hybrid of a hybrid nowadays. A suitcase has wheels, a car has a computer, and phone has GPS. Ideas don’t have to be new or revolutionary. In fact the best ones often fuse complementary things together. Experiment putting things together like salt and caramel that you might not have thought of before. Transmute ideas from other niches not in the same area as you. Try to spend at least 20% of your thinking and research time in other businesses or niches for ideas others aren’t seeing.
8. Ask someone who knows nothing
Conventional wisdom is to go to an expert or mentor for help, that’s smart. But if you want to really expand your mind, seek out ideas from people who don’t have experience in your field. Sure, they may have some unusable ideas, but they don’t know the challenges or what can’t be done either. They might just stumble on something you never thought of because only someone with a totally fresh perspective could.
9. Listen to thought leaders, read classics and watch interviews and autobiographies
There are trailblazers and experienced experts who’ve seen all the things you are wrestling with. What is hard to you is easy to them. Don’t struggle alone. Ask for help. Borrow from the best and own the traits of the greats. Do this for 80% of your time in your niche and 20% in different, even left field niches.
10. Ban ‘I can’t’, ‘It’s hard’, ‘it’s expensive’, ‘I don’t have time’
These stifle ideas and creativity. Save them for later. There is a time and a place for critical analysis, and it’s not here.
11. Test, play, create, solve, care, observe, serve
Don’t take ideas or yourself too seriously. Allow yourself to enjoy the process. Have fun and be playful. Watch and listen carefully and be present. You are an idea machine, you just need to follow any or all of these 11.5 steps and know that you can improve these with practice, like any practice.