May 31, 2023

Coming Up With Fresh, Original Ideas

Have you ever run out of ideas? Have you stared at a blank page (or out the window) for hours, really trying to push your brain, but the creative juice just isn't flowing?

Well... Do you want to know the creative process behind coming up with fresh ideas? I'm spilling the not-so-secret beans below.

It's a five-step process, created by James Webb Young:

1. Gather raw material.

Collect specific knowledge (about the product and the market) and general knowledge (about life and events).

Fresh ideas sprout from the new combinations of these two types of knowledge—new threads that connect seemingly separate concepts.

So consume, and then consume some more.

2. Actively work on the problem.

This is when you look at each information you've gathered from different angles, and try to make sense of everything. You actively look for relationships, testing one fact with another.

Raw ideas will come to you. Write them down, no matter how lame or crazy. This isn’t the final stage. Those initial ideas are precursors to the final, polished idea. Exhaust your creative mind. And when there’s nothing else left to jot down, you can proceed with the next step.

3. Drop the subject completely.

Do something else that “stimulates your imagination and emotions”—go to the movies or a concert, have a drink with your colleagues, read a whodunnit.

By not thinking about ideas, you’re letting your unconscious mind further digest all the information you’ve gathered, the relationships you’ve seen, and the new insights you’ve come up with in the first two stages.

This is when you let your unconscious work some magic.

4. Eureka!

The a-ha moment. Suddenly, the idea pops out of nowhere. Your creative, unconscious mind has pieced it all together. This can happen while you’re taking a shower, driving, or walking your dog.

5. Turn it into an actionable idea.

This is when you go the practical route and mold the idea in a way that best fits the conditions. It answers the question: how can you implement the idea?

That's it!

Deadlines might tempt us to jump to the 4th step, to immediately come up with the ideabut that's only going to produce half-baked ideas. 

Don't skip a step.

And since the a-ha moment can happen at any time, here's a tip: always have a notepad (analog or digital) where you can jot down ideas—because they can disappear as swiftly as they come.