Advertising
Advertising

Published on December 14, 2020

How to Get 1000 Good Ideas Without Trying Hard

How to Get 1000 Good Ideas Without Trying Hard

You’ve probably been in this situation: You think of something great and tell yourself, “I’ll remember that for later.” By the time you need the idea, you’ve forgotten it. Another common scenario is that you have an innovative thought, but you don’t recognize that it’s special. Learning how to get more ideas may be as simple as remembering and recognizing.

When you ignore or forget your random thoughts, you deprive yourself of a goldmine of ideas. Usually, the creative spark arises when we least expect it.

Ideas Are Already in Your Mind

A person has an average of 50,000 thoughts per day[1]. That’s an impressive number that should translate into an abundance of ideas. Now, sit down and try to recall what you’ve thought about today. You’d be lucky to remember 100 things that crossed your mind.

It isn’t that you don’t think of good ideas. It’s just that you can’t remember them. Human memory is not reliable. Why?

We Deliberately Forget Things

Humans are wired to forget things, but it’s for our own good. Your brain has to sort through so many thoughts and stimuli. If it treated all information equally, you’d feel overwhelmed, and your brain would be inefficient. Your mind actively works to weed out unimportant information to keep you from going insane[2].

This proves that forgetting some things is good for us, but it doesn’t explain why we forget things we want to remember. The problem is that many of our most creative ideas emerge when we’re operating in a diffused mode of thinking.

Advertising

Your brain enters a diffused mode when you aren’t directly focused on anything[3]. This helps your mind process complex problems while you work on other tasks. You might be taking a walk or showering when your best ideas hit. Most of us don’t bother to jot down our thoughts when we are doing these things. By the time you sit down at your desk again, the ideas are long gone.

Your Brightest Ideas

If you sit down with the intention of forcing ideas out of your head, you probably won’t succeed. You can’t pull out a notebook and expect your brain to deliver the same types of thoughts you had in diffused mode. That’s because when you concentrate on one task, you’re operating in focused mode[4]. In focused mode, you fixate on one problem, and there is no opportunity for random thoughts.

Instead of staring at a blank page, the key is to do something else. Go for a walk, or have a cup of coffee. Choose something that requires minimal mental or physical effort. Keep a recording tool, such as your notebook, with you but out of sight. As long as your notebook is out of sight but within reach, you’ll free your brain from its focused state[5].

Be sure to have recording mechanisms in your best thinking spots. You might need a waterproof notepad by the shower, or a voice recorder for your walks. Have them ready, and relax into your task.

Forcing Ideas Never Works

Knowing that your best ideas come when you aren’t trying to have them means that you need to save up your best thoughts for times when you need them. When you don’t store your ideas in advance, you’ll have to spend more time coming up with them. Instead of brainstorming on the fly, wouldn’t it be great to have a notebook to refer back to for inspiration?

Creative people don’t force ideas out of their minds. They put systems in place to see connections that other people miss. As Steve Jobs once explained[6],

Advertising

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something…”

He’s describing creativity, but he’s also describing how innovators put diffused thinking to work for them. Creative people connect the dots.

Figure out What to Write Down

It’s important to know when and what to write down. Not all ideas are worthy of a place in your notebook. Knowing which ones are comes with practice.

1. Don’t Jot Down Everything

If you tried to write down all 50,000 thoughts that enter your mind every day, you’d never get anything done. After you have your recording devices in place, you need to decide what’s worth remembering.

Most of your thoughts are just mental chatter, but there will be a few gems worth noting. Write down any thought that breaks from traditional thinking. If it’s different from the way most people approach a topic, you may want to remember it.

2. Make Notes of Insights Related to Your Area of Expertise

Those ideas have a higher probability of being useful to you.

Advertising

Imagine you’re sitting on an airplane. While you’re cruising at 30,000 feet, you probably aren’t focused on anything in particular. Your brain is in diffused mode, and it’s chattering away[7]. You might think to yourself, “Where’s the toilet? The flush on this toilet scares me. Is the person beside me going to snore the whole time? The sky is so blue; what if we could live in the clouds?”

One of these bits of chatter is not like the others. Thinking about the toilets or the person beside you is not going to help you long-term. There’s no need to jot those down. “What if we could live in the clouds?” is unique. If you work for a tech company, this might prompt you to take your research and development in a new direction. If you’re an author, this could be the premise of a novel.

3. Don’t Judge Too Much

It’s common to be uncertain about what to write. You might not recognize a great idea when it comes to you. Don’t let uncertainty hold you back. It’s okay if you jot down a few bad ideas.

The trick is to review your thoughts on a frequent basis. Go through your ideas once every week, and sort the good from the bad. Then, organize the good ones so that you can access them when you need them.

For example, if you have a bunch of ideas for your blog, take some time to outline them. Come up with what you’d talk about for each topic and how a post about that topic could be valuable for your readers. If an idea is bad, you won’t be able to flesh it out, or it won’t meet your needs. For good ideas, you’ll have a tangible outline that you can go back to later. It’s harder to forget your idea after you’ve spent some time with it.

4. Organize Your Ideas Later

It’s possible to go overboard when you’re trying to develop a new way to keep track of your random thoughts. You don’t have to organize your ideas as soon as you jot them down. Organizing your ideas takes time, and, as I mentioned before, some of your ideas won’t be good. It would be inefficient to waste time organizing bad ideas. It’s better to review your thoughts, eliminate the bad ideas, and then organize.

Advertising

Many of us also worry about handwriting, grammar, and vocabulary when we write. Editing yourself is useful when you send emails or write memos, but you don’t need to self-edit when you’re scribbling your ideas. Write the thoughts exactly as they come to you. You can clean them up later if they turn out to be useful.

Final Thoughts

When you offer your brain the opportunity to process, you’ll gain amazing insights.

Give yourself at least three times during the week for diffused thinking. This could mean that you schedule three walks or other relaxing tasks during your week. (Don’t forget to take your recording device with you.) If you work in a creative field, you may need to give yourself time for diffused thinking every day.

Remember, you don’t need to go into your relaxed activity with a specific target in mind. Simply allow thoughts to come and go. You’d be amazed at all the great ideas waiting for the chance to be heard.

More on How to Get More Ideas

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

What Is Positive Thinking and How to Always Think Positive Do You Know Your Motivation Style? A Stress-Free Way To Prioritizing Tasks And Ending Busyness How To Apply the Stages Of Learning (With Free Worksheet) What Is A Flow State And How To Achieve It For Productivity

Trending in Creativity

1 How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively 2 How To Adapt Flexible Thinking Strategies To Solve Problems 3 How To Improve Your Creativity: 10 Ways To Boost It 4 15 Best Brainstorming And Mind-Mapping Tools For Every Creative Mind 5 How to Train Your Brain to Be More Creative

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on April 6, 2021

How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively

How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively

Do you continually look for ways and means to do things better but find yourself in a shortage of ideas? As humans, we are continually evolving and looking for ways to do what we do more efficiently—to yield the same or higher output with lesser inputs in time, resources, and effort. One way to do this is to wait for the Eureka! moment and inspiration to strike. But that is far-fetched and requires a lot of waiting around to take small steps ahead.

However, putting in place a structure for ideation can come in handy for those looking to take giant leaps forward. And that’s where brainstorming ideas can help.

Let’s have a look at how to brainstorm ideas more creatively and effectively. But before that, let’s dive deeper into understanding brainstorming.

What Is Brainstorming?

Brainstorming is an excellent tool for ideation, out-of-the-box thinking, and creative problem solving without criticism or judgment.

Meriam Webster’s dictionary defines brainstorming as “a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem.”[1]

Three things stand out here:

Advertising

  1. Spontaneous contribution – Brainstorming allows individuals to share crazy, far-fetched, out of the box half-baked ideas. It does not have to be thoroughly thought out yet at the ideation stage.
  2. All members – Brainstorming is a technique where taking in diverse opinions can improve ideating offbeat solutions.
  3. Find a solution to a problem – It is fundamentally goal-oriented towards one thing—solving the issue at hand. Without a clear problem statement, brainstorming ideas will not yield effective results.

Broadly speaking, brainstorming is synonymous with the idea-generating process that creatively solves problems.

You Can Brainstorm Ideas on Your Own

It is common to think that brainstorming is effective only in groups and cannot be done individually. However, that is not entirely true. Studies have shown that although both approaches have their pros and cons in catalyzing idea generation, people are more creative when they brainstorm on their own than in groups.[2]

Individually, one is empowered to flexibly work at their pace and drive idea generation. They can set their own time and place and ideate when one is at their creative best. Additionally, there is no fear of judgment when brainstorming individually.

On the other hand, group brainstorming holds a sacred place in innovating in workplaces. Here, you can take advantage of the diverse experience, perspectives, and creativity of all team members to ideate and develop offbeat solutions that offer outstanding results.

Is Brainstorming Effective?

Brainstorming delivers tremendous value, from providing innovative and offbeat ideas that would have never occurred in the ordinary course of work to building a culture of collaboration and team spirit. Here are some reasons why brainstorming is effective and beneficial.

1. Goes Beyond Creative Blocks

Brainstorming ideas can help individuals and teams move forward when they find themselves creatively stuck. Inspiration is hard to come by, and brainstorming is an excellent approach to access on-demand creativity without the pressure of getting it right the first time.

Advertising

2. Encourages Divergent Thinking

By leaving no idea behind, brainstorming can help explore diverse ideas and alternatives to grow. Brainstorming ideas offers a judgment-free space to think of as many possibilities as you can until you’re convinced of the way forward.

3. Supports Team Building

Compared to other techniques, you create a relaxed and informal ambiance to brainstorm ideas that encourage open participation among team members. People are offered the space to share their opinion and points of view without fear of judgment, strengthening the camaraderie among team members. Frequent brainstorming sessions instill the spirit of collaboration and help teams to rely on each other’s strengths to deliver improved results.

How Does It Work?

Brainstorming ideas involves 4 crucial stages:

  1. Identifying the central problem or goal: This stage defines the critical purpose for brainstorming ideas.
  2. Idea Generation: An avenue permitting free-flowing generation of ideas.
  3. Developing the idea: Deep dive into the ideas produced and build upon them.
  4. Idea evaluation: Evaluating the top ideas towards its efficacy in solving the central goal or issue.

The process is structured to allow consideration of varied ideas objectively to achieve the solution to the critical problem at hand.

ProTips to Brainstorm Ideas Effectively

Here are a few #ProTips to brainstorm ideas creatively and effectively.

  • Welcome wild ideas: Make sure you encourage offbeat and non-linear ideas. The more diverse the ideas produced in the ideation stage, the better it is to allow for innovative solutions to come forth.
  • Plan ahead: Allow people to think by themselves before the brainstorming session. This tip ensures that people are allowed sufficient time to mull over the problem statement and come prepared to ideate on tackling the issue.
  • Goal-tending: As you navigate the ideation stage, focus on the central goal or problem. It is natural to stray away while opening up the forum for ideas. So, it is essential to remind the teams on the problem statement to keep the discussions relevant and identify the best solution.
  • Record everything: Record all ideas, not just the good ones. This rule is fundamental to capture all probable ideas in the ideation stage. Make sure that every single idea generated is systematically captured regardless of how useful it is. Additionally, permit one conversation at a time to ensure all thoughts are given consideration and are not missed out in parallel discussions.
  • Judgement-free: Creating a no-judgment space encourages people to speak up and express their opinions freely. Keeping judgments aside can help continue the flow of ideas and encourage teams to build and develop each other’s thought processes. One idea could spark another, leading to much more effective solutions.
  • Defer evaluation: Refrain from evaluating ideas in the ideation stage. Hold the assessments till the evaluation stage for the best results. All ideas hold some potential so enforce the no assessment rule until all the ideas are captured, tabled, and developed. Alex Osborn, who conceptualized the brainstorming technique, recommends “defer judgment” as the golden rule to brainstorm effectively.[3]

How to Use Brainstorming Effectively on Your Own

Here are a few tips for brainstorming ideas effectively on your own:

Advertising

1. Ground Yourself

Make sure to ground yourself by meditating or practicing any other mindfulness technique to ensure your entire presence before brainstorming. You could also choose a time and place when you’re most active and energetic for the best results.

2. Minimize Distractions

Choose a time where you can focus entirely on brainstorming ideas for the problem at hand. Minimize distractions and create space for paying 100% attention in ideating solutions.

3. Go Wild

Individual Brainstorming does not have worries about other’s judgment and offers a safe space to ideate as many crazy or wild ideas as they come. There’s no worry about egos or team dynamics either. So, the brainstorming can be focused on solving the core issue.

4. Use Mind maps

To keep the chain of thought as you brainstorm ideas, you can use mind maps to arrange, assimilate, and develop concepts further. Word association, prompts, or even visual cues can come in handy to ideate across the spectrum.

5. Take a Break Before Evaluating

Don’t go into assessments and evaluations right after you ideate. Take a break. Do something completely different before you consider the ideas to be objective and unbiased. Keep the overarching goal in mind to filter the best possible outcomes. You could also narrow it down to the top 2 to 3 ideas and run it past your mentors or colleagues to get unbiased opinions from trustworthy sources.

How to Use Brainstorming Effectively in a Group

Here are a few tips for brainstorming ideas effectively in a group:

Advertising

1. Diversity

Form groups across functions to bring in different perspectives as you brainstorm together. Ensure that the individuals chosen are equally vested and aligned towards the shared goal to achieve maximum results. You could also brainstorm with a complete outsider to get a fresh perspective on a problem that you’ve been stuck with for a long time.

2. 6-3-5 Technique

You can adapt the 6 people coming up with 3 ideas every 5 minutes to keep the ideation momentum going. You can get over 100 ideas in 30 minutes using this approach.

3. Challenge Bad Ideas

Ask team members to write down the craziest and most ludicrous ways to solve the problem. Then challenge other team members to make changes to flip a bad idea into a good one.

Final Thoughts

Brainstorming ideas is an excellent way to creatively identify the best way forward. It provides structure to unstructured thinking and delivers immense value to individuals and organizations to think beyond the conventional norms. Hopefully, after reading this article, you’ve picked up a thing or two to help you brainstorm ideas effectively.

Featured photo credit: Leon via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: brainstorming
[2] MindTools: Brainstorming
[3] The Heart of Innovation: Why You Need to Defer Judgment During the Ideation Phase of a Brainstorming Session

Read Next