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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.

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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.

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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”:

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  • 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.

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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 unsplash.com

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Jennifer Theuriet

Writer and productivity coach for creatives who hustle.

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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:

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  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.

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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:

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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:

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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

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