Take out your iPod, rent a DreamWorks animated film, and focus on that Pinterest icon appearing all over the internet. It’s time to start exercising your idea muscles. The examples mentioned may seem like just “things” people use, but they are much much more than that. They are innovative ideas that offer immense value, and are incredibly beneficial for those who use them. Creation is constant this day in age, and things change by the minute, so having great ideas matters more than ever. There are so many different ideas popping-up on a daily basis, it can be easy to overlook them. How can you come up with creative ideas to boost your career, change an organization, or ramp up the value on a project? Simple, by starting to pay attention and being in the habit of looking for ideas all around you. Innovation and creativity is about turning simple “things” into big ideas. Some people think creativity is an innate gift we are born with. There are of course naturally creative people, but anyone can learn to be more creative and innovative by changing the way they think and see things. Brilliance is optional when it comes to having bright ideas. It just takes awareness of your creative niche, paying attention as you go through the day, and making use of creativity as it emerges. Here are 10 steps to help you on the hunt for creative ideas.
First thing first, don’t give yourself a headache trying to come up with that big idea. Have you ever noticed that when you’re fretting and anxious about a big decision or project it makes thinking much more difficult? It has been shown that those “A-Ha” moments of genius come when we’re in a state of calm arousal. We’re alert but not overly amped up. Simply taking a few deep breathes and calming down can enhance your ability to think clearly and more broadly.
When you’re in the mode of creating, make this your sole purpose. Turn off the television, close out your email, and set your phone aside. When we’re distracted by all the unimportant and trivial activities grabbing for our attention it makes creating much more difficult. Focused attention and relaxation are the name of the game.
Creative ideas are all around us but often we are so absorbed in our thinking or concerns we don’t take notice. When you’re working on a project look for inspiration and insight in every encounter. Be aware of the potential for creative insight even in unexpected places or from unexpected people. You never know who might stimulate an idea. Practice being more curious and interested in people, places, and things. Oh, and by the way, when you’re done exploring, explore some more! The importance of being observant, open-minded, and curious can’t be emphasize enough.
4. Take Notes
Be aware and ready to collect great ideas, and as you’re on the lookout have a system for collecting your discoveries. When something catches your eye or sparks an idea write it down or document how you could use this concept in your own way. This is one of the great functions of Pinterest, it helps people document inspiration! It’s not about stealing other peoples’ ideas, but instead letting these ideas expand your own understanding and perspective. Almost all ideas are regurgitated in some form or another, so try to offer a unique spin, more appeal, or greater value.
5. Inspirational time out
Going through the day collecting interesting ideas is one thing, but when it comes to the time we dedicate to actually working on a project it can take more energy. Sometimes we need a break to re-energize and regain our focus. Find activities that can help you do this, such as going for a walk, reading a favorite blog, or listening to your favorite song. I personally play the drums or meditate if at home. Brainstorm your creative filler activities. What can you do when you need a break that can get your brain more alert on task?
6. Have fun
We all have deadlines to meet and responsibilities to maintain, but if we don’t lighten up the stress can be overwhelming and stifle our creative potential. Find ways to enjoy yourself by laughing, being more playful, and having fun. When we’re worried, concerned, and focused on the serious side of life, it narrows our focus to all the problems, instead of broadening our view toward the opportunities. Find ways to be more playful and it will expand your thinking.
7. Stick with it
Have you ever experienced a brain cramp, or just spaced out? I know I have with writers block. We all experience these forgetful moments, which is why a key to developing creative ideas is to stick with it and keep on trucking. Great song writers rewrite their songs numerous times, and authors go through numerous drafts. The greatest creative’s spend years refining ideas and making prototypes before they are complete.
8. Embrace wild ideas
This may be one of the most important points for the uncreative person. As we go through life we are educated and taught to think linearly. We are trained to be cogs in a machine and to do what we’re told. Outside of the box thinking may even be presented as wrong or problematic. Think bigger and more diverse. Practice looking at things in a new way. Take everyday items and consider how they could be used in a completely different manner. Embrace ideas that you are embarrassed to tell others about. This is how you can start to push the envelope of your creative potential.
9. Go for quantity over quality
Thomas Edison said “To have a great idea, have a lot of them.” When in need of a new idea, let yourself go wild and think of as many ideas as possible. Sometimes we just need to brainstorm and let our thinking expand. The point is to get the process going and get your mind thinking of possibilities and opportunities. Even if you don’t use most of the ideas generated you will know you left no stone unturned.
10. Stop when you’re tired
Allow yourself time to think creatively. If you have had a long day it can be tough to start on a creative project. Get some sleep and don’t push your attention and thinking beyond your ability to concentrate. This may mean focusing on creative ideas first thing in the morning, or saving tasks that require less brain power for later in the day. We’ll there are your 10 steps! Next time you’re in a creative slump remember that innovative ideas are all around you. Be on the hunt and ready to capture ideas as they emerge. Know what type of ideas you’re looking for and keep your antennas up. Successful and efficient brainstorming is best achieved by finding a balance between focusing on your ideas and freeing them up. Also, remember to take action on your ideas. The point of a great idea is to put them to use so you can help others and make a difference.
This is where I provide my personal connection to the ideas in the post. I hope you will join the conversation by leaving a comment, and offering your personal connection to these ideas as well. If you’re a usual reader, I’m sure you can tell I’m a more left brained person in general, and as frightening as it is, I used to be an even more practical and linear thinker. I had a turning point a few years ago when I decided to break away from a practical path and expand my outlook. From this point on, I made it a habit to be more curious and always look for ways to expand my creativity. I read blogs, books, magazines, and listen to podcast on a daily basis to find inspiration and insight. I would be nowhere near where I am in my coaching, writing, and speaking ability if it wasn’t for taking notes and capturing ideas that relate to my mission and life goals.