Ideas are the big commodity in the business of advertising. The big idea makes unforgettable marketing, which makes the unremarkable, remarkable. But how is these brilliant ideas conceived?
Lately I have been thinking, thinking about how ideas occur, how that single thought of genius suddenly appears and makes you scream in joy of intellectual creation. Based on a bunch of reading, surfing and conversations I have come to some sort of humble understanding that I have no clue of how the brain acts while creating a genius thought. But I have also found some really interesting things on how to enhance the probability of creating remarkable ideas. Based on these findings I have put together a list with some thoughts on conceiving ideas. This is not a canonical list and its probably stupidity to narrow the creation of good ideas into a list of twelve bullets, but it will certainly give you some starters. Also, feel free to dig into the links and dive deeper into the world of creation.
“A good idea is a network. A specific constellation of neurons—thousands of them—fire in sync with each other for the first time in your brain, and an idea pops into your consciousness. A new idea is a network of cells exploring the adjacent possible of connections that they can make in your mind.”
– Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson
1. First of you need to make some constraints
Have a goal and a deadline. To be creative and to innovate you need a clearly defined box to think inside and to expand and venture outside, into the frontier.
“…clearly specified strategic goals often enhance people’s creativity.”
- Teresa Amabil
2. Find inspiration
Look outside your field of expertise and interests. Mix your knowledge and experience with seemingly unrelated information and knowledge to gain more complex, diversified and interesting ideas.
“The link between inspiration and creativity is consistent with the transcendent aspect of inspiration, since creativity involves seeing possibility beyond existing constraints.”
- Scott Barry Kaufman
Dig deep. And give yourself some allotted time to just focus on getting into the matter.
E.g. Regularly Bill Gates takes a week of and just reads a bunch of books and articles. During this week he gets time to focus on just consuming information and gain knowledge in diversified fields. Also, Gates gets time to think and cross connect his newly acquired knowledge.
3. Give yourself time to process the inspiration and for exploration
You need to incubate the idea. Don’t rush it; let your brain work on it.
No great thing is created suddenly.
4. Tweak and play around with existing ideas
Explore possibilities and mate different concepts and ideas with other seemingly unrelated concepts and ideas.
“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. It seemed obvious to them after a while. 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 they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”
- Steve Jobs
“Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.”
– Pablo Picasso
5. Share your ideas
Talk with people. Share your thoughts and let others share their thoughts and ideas with you. Mix, match and stir to get some flavor and punch in your ideas.
The programming and hacking community thrives on sharing, they have created a flourishing environment where snippets of codes are freely shared for others to use or build upon. Web-services such as Stack Overflow and GitHub are just two examples which enables easily sharing of your latest code based project. By tapping into the collective intelligence of the web, combining and remixing already existing code we are able to create bigger, bolder and more innovative work based on the freely accessible knowledge.
I’m absolutely certain that innovation would explode if thinkers, innovators and other people shared their ideas in a similar fashion as the programming community does with services like Stack Overflow and GitHub.
Also, all your spare ideas, just hanging out in your drawer, deserve to be free. Let them out, share them, mate them and form new ideas.
“Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, recombine. They want to reinvent themselves by crossing conceptual borders.”
- Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson
After tinkering and playing around with dozens of ideas you probably have an amazing concept. Now it’s time to scrap all that and simplify your concept. Refining it and make it into an idea that just feels obvious.
7. The devil is in the details
Perk up. Hone and polish the small things that make your idea shine.
8. Get angry
If you’re angry you care. When you care about the idea your half way there. Even though I don’t think anger is a good motivator this is an interesting read on creativity and anger.
9. Embrace diversified teams
If your team always agrees, chances are that your team isn’t diversified enough, they are thinking alike.
“When all think alike, then no one is thinking.”
- Walter Lippman
Don’t be afraid to mix up and recombine your existing structures. Gather up a bunch of different people. Clash their brains together. Get fighting. Let your ideas collide and form new and unexpected ideas.
“Because an organization’s structure and how its groups work together may have been established to facilitate the design of its dominant product, the direction of causality may ultimately reverse itself: The organization’s structure and the way its groups learn to work together can then affect the way it can and cannot design new products.”
– The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Clayton M. Christensen
10. Trust your guts
Does your intuition tell you that this is shit or the shit? Trust your feelings and let your intuition guide you. Your intuition is based on your knowledge and experience; it is rooted on your previous ventures.
“A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.”
- Albert Einstein
11. Sleep on it
Sleep is the best way to process your thoughts. Your brain works on the acquired inputs of the day and sorts out and saves what’s needed and scraps the obsolete.
12. Finally, just ship your idea
Let it out. Expose it to the world. Get feedback. Tweak it. Fail. Get back on. Fail again. Get back on and finally ride into the sunshine.
“Success is on the far side of failure.”
- Thomas Watson Sr.
That’s it. Or is it? No one thinks alike and the conceiving of ideas is still quit a mystery, so if you got some magic formula that works for you, go ahead and use it.
May the good ideas be with you.