All about ideas

When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people have. (Steve Jobs)

Our memories do not mirror our real life experiences, but an aggregation of many bits and pieces. In fact what you think as `the idea’ could be a blurred image that your mind captures as you focus on something. That’s precisely what you should catch on, think through, submit to analysis till it gets to be a presentable concept. You may still like to add to it as it may not be perfect, but there will be less to knock off.

Normally it is said that people get their best ideas not while at work – they get it at a picnic, in the car, in the shower, in the bed etc. So the trick is to make sure those ideas don’t escape. They’re valuable ideas that come to you for free when you least expect it. But if you’re prepared, you can capture the little scamps and use them later.  Always remember to jot them down as soon as they occur.

Sometimes the best decisions are made when you’re most tired: raw, unfettered emotions come through, not burdened with the lattices of straining to put too much effort into something that’ll ultimately result in nothing. And it’s not just merely about speaking your mind, either, but expression unkempt by cliched “I tell it like it is”, the way an icebreaker smashes through blocks of solid water. No, this is better: you’re telling it how you wish it to be.

Our brain has two basic phases during the innovation process**

1) Generating ideas and 2) Evaluating them.

Most of the time, when we’re innovating, we’re doing both parts at the same time. First one, then the other, in that sequence all in split second.  Even for a simple decision whether to go out for dinner or cook at home, the process is the same.  So our brain is almost always at work, generate idea, reject, reject, reject, if accepted > evaluate, reject… It’s not a comment on the ratio of the quality of ideas we get. It’s got more to do with our ability (or the lack of it) to incubate and process every idea that crosses our mind.

What happens to the generative side of the process is that it gets fed up with being rejected all the time. And that’s just in our own brain. Imagine when we add the entire team to the equation ! Lots of ideas, lots of people shutting them down, and then eventually the group stops suggesting ideas and innovative thoughts.

One way to eliminate the idea shut down is to deliberately separate our generating from our evaluating. Otherwise, it’s like trying to drive with one foot on the accelerator while the other foot is on the brake. You’ll make a lot of noise, but you won’t go anywhere. It’s tough on the car.

It’s easier said than done, so use these deliberate rules when you’re generating and evaluating:


1. Defer Judgment — you can judge the ideas all you want… LATER! For now, just keep them coming and write them down!

 2. Strive for Quantity — set a quota for ideas and don’t stop until you get there. Even  then, don’t feel the need to stop generating! For simple issues, go for at least 30 ideas. More for complicated problems. When you generate lots of ideas, you’ll get lots of great ideas. Quantity yields quality. Of course, you’ll get lots of bad ideas, too, but don’t worry about them until you start judging. But not yet!

3.  Seek Wild and Unusual Ideas — Seek out wacky ideas. Actively try to find them. Because they stretch your mind. They force you to look in new corners of your brain where you’ll find some odd ideas that might not be so outrageous when you tone them down a bit. It’s easier to tame a wild idea than to invigorate a weak one.

4. Combine and Build on Other Ideas — It’s not enough to just generate a bunch of ideas unless you can build on them or fit ideas together that offer new possibilities. As you’re generating, keep playing with ideas to see if you can let ideas spark off of each other to create new ones.


1. Use Affirmative Judgment — Instead of pointing out all the ideas in which you don’t see merit, focus on the ideas that are potentially valuable. Look for the good. Don’t point out the bad. Never mind the ugly.

2. Be Brave: Consider Novelty — When evaluating ideas, it’s too easy to fall back on the safe ideas you’ve tried before or that you know have been done before. But we’ll soon realize, innovation doesn’t come from golden oldies ideas. They come from bold, fresh, new, novel ideas. And that’s sometimes uncomfortable. So focus on looking for them.

3. Stay on Target — As you evaluate ideas, remember what you’re trying to accomplish. What was the original objective? Keep that in mind when you’re reviewing ideas. Otherwise, it’s easy to go off on tangents without getting what you want. Like the saying goes, “when you’re up to your butt in alligators, sometimes it’s easy to forget that you started out to drain the swamp.”

4. Keep Focused — It’s easy to see one idea and latch on to it, excluding all of the other great ideas that you generated. Watch out! Force yourself to be patient enough to explore each and every idea and ponder it’s strengths before moving on to evaluate the next idea.

If you can’t remember all that, remember this; to generate new ideas, you have to be able to defer judgment and open your mind to new ideas. And to evaluate new ideas, you have to open your mind to new ideas. Otherwise nothing gets through but old ideas. Now, how innovative is that?!

*With thanks to Alex Osborn, from his book, “Applied Imagination”

**permitted by : newsletter


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