Searching for ideas? Here’s where to start

Do you find that sometimes ideas seem to flow really easily, and other times it seems impossible to come up with ideas? I often get asked “how do you come up with ideas”?

The first thing that you can do is…. stop trying to come up with ideas…

It’s counter-intuitive I know, but stick with me.

Ideas happen when we make connections (I created some simple slides on this topic, click here) – literal connections in our brains – we see something, hear something, read or experience something new and it makes connections with things that are already stored in our brains.

So, the in the search for ideas we are first going to search for new connections.

You can do that right now. Stop what you are doing and just look around you or reflect on what you’ve been doing in the last hour or two. What did you find difficult or annoying? What, if you could, would you fix or not do again?

Jot down all the things that occur to you. Don’t filter. At this stage we’re not even pretending we are looking for ideas – we’re just trying to make connections.

Some of you will find it easier to do this by interviewing colleagues or friends and asking them to reflect on their experiences – in Design Thinking terms we call this stage Empathise.

Hopefully you have a number of things written down. We can then move to the next phase which is called Define. To do this we simply underline one or more that really interest you. Doubtless you will have noted a number of problems or irritations; which of these, if you could fix, would be the most valuable? If you can, expand on those items that were underlined a little more.

Now, hopefully, we can start to see how we might solve or address some of the problems we defined – some ideas.

Again, don’t filter, avoid judgments – remember, all brilliant ideas started out sounding utterly ridiculous.  The more ideas you have, the more ideas you have, but don’t force it. When it seems to become difficult, stop. You’ll know when you’ve found an idea that grabs you. If you have to, come back to the list. Sometimes ideas need time to mature and develop. If it keeps you awake tonight….you might be on to something!

What next? Well this blog post was always meant to be a 2 minute read, and the what next is another 2 minutes !-) You can read more about this on this link.