Published on January 5, 2021

How To Generate Great Ideas Like An Ideas Machine

How To Generate Great Ideas Like An Ideas Machine

Who loves Shark Tank? Every episode I ask myself, “why didn’t I think of that?” Did you see the one with Buggy Beds? I had a run-in with bed bugs on a hostel stay during my college years. I should have thought of that.

So, how do you generate great (Shark Tank worthy) ideas?

We know that there’s strength in numbers, so one key here is to come up with a lot of great ideas to find the one that’s quality shark bait.

Also, you can try the following methods that will help you generate great ideas like a machine:

1. Embrace Failure

When you want to find a new idea to solve a problem, start with thinking about how you will fail.

Wait, what? Why would I ask you to start by brainstorming failure?

They call this “inversion theory.” You probably have used inversion in math, and the same idea applies. It’s using the opposite effect to “undo” a problem.


For example:

  • 45+5=50
  • 50-5=45 (back to where we started)

Let’s apply this mathematical concept to problem-solving. Let’s say you want to launch a new product. Start by thinking about all the ways your product launch might fail.

Here are some examples:

  • Lack of customers
  • Targeting the wrong market
  • Incorrect pricing
  • Failed marketing
  • Wrong positioning
  • Poor timing

It’s easy to think of how you might fail. Next, find a possible solution for each of these failures.

  • Validate customers that your product solves a problem.
  • Create a buyer persona.
  • Test different pricing strategies.
  • Start building an audience and marketing strategy.
  • Create a unique selling point.
  • Research industry-related events.

Viola! You have an entire list of great ideas to launch. Whatever problem you’re facing, there are great ideas hidden inside taking the opposite approach.

2. Travel (In a New Way)

Travel has been a staple in helping people generate and spark great ideas. Leaving your bubble and experiencing other cultures teaches you how to think differently. Travel broadens your perspective. When you leave your city, state, or country, you better understand the infinite possibilities of the world around you.

Travel breaks down your routines and comfort zones if you are brave enough to push those boundaries. It’s outside those comfort zones you can discover ideas you never knew existed.


So, here’s the obvious problem: what about the COVID travel restrictions?

The good news is that many companies in the travel industry changed their approach and adapted to the situation to give you a virtual experience.

  • Airbnb Online Experiences – Have unique virtual experiences with Airbnb hosts all over the world. Go on a scavenger hunt in Barcelona, make coffee in Mexico, or learn how to saber a bottle of Champagne in France.
  • Amazon Explore – Amazone Explore is an interactive live streaming experience where you can explore and even shop the world from your computer. Imagine what new ideas will spark as you get up close with Costa Rican wildlife or take a walking tour of Old Quebec city.
  • Google Earth VR – If you have one of Google’s virtual reality headsets, you can walk the streets of Paris right after you fly over the Grand Canyon. Beware, your head might explode with ideas from teleporting across the globe.

Is virtual travel the same as your beach getaway? Of course not! Logging into a zoom call will never be the same as waking to the sounds of surfing waves. However, it’s still bound to open your mind and generate some new ideas without having to leave your living room.

3. The Cut-Up Technique

What if you took all your thoughts about a topic, jumbled them together, and pulled out a ton of new ideas?

This is a literary technique that dates back to the 1920s. The Cut-up technique was popularized in the 1950s by writer William S. Burroughs, whose popular work Naked Lunch made waves during its time.

The idea is that you take a text, cut it up, and then rearrange it to form new text. You can use this method with any idea thanks to websites like Stick Bucket’s cut-up generator. Type in your subject and it will pull random text mashups for the internet.

Going back to our Shark Tank example, here are a few things I found when I typed in “bed bugs”:


  • bugs must recommended used be
  • with living after research bugs
  • bedbugs commonly safely murder the email

Could bed bugs solve the time suck of email? Probably not, but this technique just might strike inspiration because it forces you to look at something from a fresh perspective. Plus, it’s a simple way to change your thinking when you’re in a rut.

4. Take a Different Route

It’s easy to get set into a routine. You’ve driven the kids to school on the same route so many times you could practically do it with your eyes closed (don’t do that).

Forcing yourself to find a new route exercises your brain and allows you to generate new ideas. Bonus: you will find new sites along the way.

Since most of us have to work from home in the pandemic, finding a different route to work is out. Try this one instead—next time nature calls, use a different bathroom in the house. I bet you have a bathroom close to your office that you go to without thinking.

I just tried it myself and discovered there’s a whole stash of toilet paper in the upstairs bathroom that nobody uses. If we have another toilet paper shortage, we’re all set! You may laugh, but this would have been the best idea when people were hoarding all the tissue papers last July.

Enough potty talk. Before we move on, I must state the obvious—some of the greatest ideas come from the bathroom.

5. An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks

If you are trying to find a fresh way to solve an old problem and generate new ideas, take a closer look at that problem and figure out how to improve what you’re currently doing. This differs from the inversion theory I’ve mentioned at the beginning because in this case, you are looking for ideas to improve rather than solving for failure.


Let’s say, for example, you need to lower your monthly utility bill. You’ve tried yelling at your family to stop fussing with the thermostat, and all that’s doing is creating a hostile environment.

First, pat yourself on the back for getting the team involved to lower your bill. Next, try changing your messaging. Instead of screaming at your daughter when you notice she cranked the heat to a balmy 75 degrees in mid-January, compliment your wife for throwing on a cozy sweatshirt when she sits down to eat breakfast. Or you can also just run around the house slapping high fives to everyone in the house when you notice nobody touched the thermostat today.

6. Network

You never know where your next great idea will come from. If you want a fast track to find it, try networking.

Networking gets us out of our own heads. It’s a chance to listen and learn from others. Maybe they also had a story about a run-in with bedbugs. How did they solve that problem? What can you learn from their successes and failures?

Network outside of your bubble. The danger of only talking with people that look and think just like you is that you aren’t exposing yourself to different perspectives. Successful ideas often put a twist on the status quo.

For example, Amazon turned the online retail space on its head with next day shipping. Great ideas come from pushing the boundaries of common thought. Jump on the fast train to this fresh territory by networking outside your regular group to generate unique and possibly better ideas.

Time to Polish Your Shark Tank Pitch

So, the time has come to answer that casting call. These tips will surely help you create great ideas. It’s not enough to generate new ideas, though—you also have to act on them for them to be useful.


If you’ve worked through the tips above, you’ve got an outstanding list of entrepreneurial ideas to pursue to get yourself in front of the sharks. Which one do you think would work best for you? Try them out so you can discover them yourself.

More Tips on How to Generate Great Ideas

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via

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Jennifer Theuriet

Writer and productivity coach for creatives who hustle.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

What Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.


Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.


Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role, you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:


Featured photo credit: rawpixel via


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