How To Make Sure You’re Generating Great Ideas
Hey friends! I’ve got something important to talk about today: generating great ideas. This is probably the most important skill you can carry around in your toolbox, no matter what your career path or profession is. Say what?! That’s right, you generating new (and truly good) ideas is what will make you stand out in your team, workplace, or organization. And the best part is, if adopt these idea generation principles, it’s not just your boss that will applaud you, it might even be your company’s CEO. Eeeeek!
Many of us struggle with generating with great ideas, (sometimes, it’s pretty much the hardest thing ever, right?) but it can become easy if you have a process! Of course there are some ways to make sure you’re chugging along when you’re stuck, but when that doesn’t work, it’s time to revisit the technique.
So today, I’m going to help you (re)learn the Art of Idea Generation.
1. Clear Your Mind
Over time, this first step has become more and more apparent to me. I don’t know about you guys, but I find it extremely difficult (and painful) to generate great ideas when I’m not in the right frame of mind. If I’m stressed out, exhausted, frustrated or hungry, I’m probably going to come up with my worst ideas, not my best ones.
One of the best things I’ve added to my routine in the last 2 years is the a meditation practice. Every morning, after I get ready for the day, I take 10 minutes to sit down and meditate. I love using the Headspace app created by Andy Puddicombe. It’s the perfect guided meditation for beginners and people who want to focus on specific aspects of their life. I especially love the Creativity Pack that comes in the app and I use it at least once every 4-5 months, to give my right brain a little TLC.
Of course, there are various ways to meditate and much shorter meditations you can utilize. In fact, a new type of meditation that’s being used more and more is something called micro-meditation. I highly recommend checking it out if you feel like you don’t have 10 minutes in your day to clear your mind.
Meditation puts your brain in a much quieter, calmer place where your subconscious can take over. I have to be honest, my subconscious mind is the real genius behind my great ideas. This is why we have so many awesome epiphanies in the shower!
2. Grab some pen and paper. I’m serious.
After you’ve cleared your mind, it’s time to pull out a pen and paper. Yes, I said pen and paper. Getting your body moving along with your mind and seeing strokes on a piece of paper will allow your creative juices to start flowing. Literally! Actually writing and drawing unlocks more of your brain and allows your left and right brain to be thinking in lock-step.
For those of you non-designers reading this (perhaps rolling your eyes at me right now), I encourage you to at least try the pen and paper method a few times. Though you may not be comfortable generating great ideas and just jotting them down with *gasp* ink, try it a few times. You might see that it helps you generate more out of the box solutions, ideas, or breakthroughs than usual!
Writing with pen and paper also allows you to draw diagrams, make illustrations, or color code! Often, I like to have a box of markers or colored pens out to draw and write with while I’m generating ideas. Not only does this allow for more detailed ideas, but it makes the whole process a lot more fun for me!
When sitting down and generating ideas, I strongly recommend using printer paper rather than a notebook. Blank printer paper is like a blank canvas. When you look at it, your mind doesn’t feel hindered, limited or confined to providing any specific type of idea. I recommend staying away from graph paper, dot pads, and lined paper when ideating. These types of papers and notebooks do have their place, don’t get me wrong. However, for sit-down type of idea generation, blank spaces are best! If you’re not a fan of sitting in one place and coming up with ideas, you can also find a blank whiteboard and dry-erase markers and begin your ideation session. As long as you let your mind feel open and free, you’re going to have the best chance of generating great ideas.
3. Quantity leads to quality
This one’s a biggie! Too often I have seen meetings where the stakeholders get together, outline the problem, and come up with a quick and dirty solution. The solution was probably a decent one, but it might not have been the best one. There are situations where you are crunched for time and don’t have the luxury to spend 20 minutes brainstorming or ideating. But most times, this isn’t the case. If that group of stakeholders had spent a bit of time throwing out 10-15 ideas, they might have landed on something that was more effective or efficient.
If you thinking about it in terms of numbers, you can estimate that about 1 in 10 ideas is a good idea (bear with me for a sec, here). Using that logic, the first idea that you and your team come up with only has a 10% chance of being a good idea. As you generate more ideas, you increase the chances of stumbling upon your best one. This is why the odds are in your favor when you push for quantity.
This is why I strongly urge you to push yourself to generate dozens of ideas when you are trying to solve a problem. Very rarely will the first idea be the best idea. Spending time to get the obvious ideas out of the way and pushing your mind to the limits to squeeze out other ideas will force your mind to search for new connections.
In fact, this is what happens to me pretty much every week when I’m trying to figure out what to write for this blog! During my week, I’m always writing ideas down and I think that I found the right one for my blog that people will love. Later when I sit down to write out an article, I think a bit more, and realize that the initial idea I had wasn’t actually that strong. That’s when I remember that I went about it all wrong. After feeling silly for a moment, I will then proceed to pull out some paper and dive into an idea generating frenzy. About 5 minutes in, you’ll see the lightbulb go off in my mind; I’ve found my idea! The craziest part is that the idea was with me all along; this is why pushing for a large quantity of ideas is crucial to finding the best one. The good ideas are there, just waiting to be found. And trust me, you do not want to leave your most fabulous ideas buried deep in the depths of your talented, creative mind!
4. Make Ideation a Habit
Generating great ideas doesn’t just magically happen. Developing dozens of good ideas definitely doesn’t magically happen. Just like you have to show up at the gym and workout to maintain a six-pack, you also have to exercise your brain to think creatively on the regular. The best way to do this is to make ideation a daily habit. One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to set aside a block of time 3-5 mornings a week to generate 10 new ideas. These new ideas could be for UX Queen, for projects at Favor, for my fitness journey or anything else! The reason I wanted to do this was to get my brain into the habit of generating great ideas. I wanted it to be second nature to whip up several good ideas on the fly.
The best part is that it’s working! Each time I’ve sat down to do this exercise, generating 10 ideas has become easier and easier for me. I don’t have to always use or implement these ideas, but once in awhile I’ll hit the jackpot and leave an ideation session feeling like a million bucks. It’s a great feeling! I know you’ll love it as much as I do.