“I am not that intelligent. I do not have any good ideas as other people do.”
Do you have such a concern? If you are one of those who believe you are not smart enough to come up with ideas, you have gotten the whole concept wrong.
Neither the accomplished scientists nor the billionaire businessmen come up with brilliant ideas everyday. The person who had an excellent idea also had many others which were plain average. You cannot expect your brain to light up like a bulb every day and provide you with a eureka moment, making you run down the streets.
In this article, I will talk about:
- The reason people lack good ideas
- 5 techniques to generate ideas
- Why you’re not getting the right ideas:
- 5 techniques to generate ideas
- 1. Come up with 5 ideas a day
- 2. Expose yourself to a broader experience
- 3. Analyze the world around you
- 4. Use your thinking time
- 5. Apply knowledge of one area into another
- Bonus tip: Use Mindmapping for brainstorming and execution
Why you’re not getting the right ideas:
If you believe you do not have any good ideas, the most likely reason is that you’re not putting an effort to make it happen. Successful people do not wait for ideas to fall onto their lap. They follow a process and make an effort to come up with new ideas all the time.
Can you recall the last time you had an idea? How did it come to your mind? Maybe it was a random thought which seemed exciting and worth pursuing. But, not all ideas occur the same way.
When you start putting time and effort into generating ideas, they will start showing up in the long run. If you lack ideas, it implies you’re not trying enough. Or, you’re so busy completing tasks that you leave no time for yourself to think.
Whatever your problem is, you can fix it and generate ideas.
5 techniques to generate ideas
You do not need a high IQ to come up with ideas. The key ingredient is a persistent effort to get your brain thinking. Learning how to generate ideas is more of a process than momentary brilliance.
Finally, you also need the patience to wait for good ideas. Do not expect your brain to toss something amazing at you in a few days. You might need a week or a few months. Every person is different in terms of interests and thinking, so I cannot provide the average time required to come up with a great idea.
Besides, the definition of “a brilliant idea” is subjective in the first place. I might consider a billion-dollar business excellent. You might love the plan of trekking in an unconventional way. Your best friend might be amazed by a house with exquisite interior design.
What you consider as a great idea might seem ordinary to the person next to you. So only you can craft the right definition of an idea for you. Irrespective of your taste, personality, and interests, here are 5 techniques to generate ideas.
1. Come up with 5 ideas a day
The simplest way to get good ideas is to come up with as many ideas as possible. Your brain is like a muscle. With consistent training, it gets better and better. Besides, when you get into a game of numbers, you will stumble upon an idea you like sooner or later.
Start with making a habit of coming up with 5 ideas a day(exclude the weekends if you like) and note them down. It doesn’t matter where they come from, or how terrible they are. You do not even have to pursue them any further.
When you use that approach, you’ll have a cartload of ideas in a few months. Most of them will be awful. A big chunk of the remaining will be average. But, such an effort will lead to a handful of useful ideas, and that’s all you need. Consider the others as a catalyst to the ones that matter.
So let your imagination run wild. You can come up with an idea to escape a formidable prison, invent a machine for human beings to fly, or plan a diamond heist. Just make sure you have the sanity to decide what to execute and what to leave behind.
2. Expose yourself to a broader experience
You know the story of the frog in the well. If I asked the amphibian to use it thinking to its best ability, what will its ideas cover? All its thoughts will revolve around water, the well, the sky, and the clouds. The scope ends there because the frog has no clue about the rest of the world.
Similarly, your exposure and knowledge determine how your far and wide your brain thinks. Your thoughts are limited to your circle of awareness. You cannot come up with ideas on areas you know nothing about no matter how powerful your idea generation process is.
When you expose yourself to broader information, you will tickle your brain to start thinking. And how can you do that?
The simplest way to broaden your knowledge is by reading. Today, you will find tons of content in the form of books and articles readily available. All you need to do is grab and absorb the wisdom within them.
Talk to people:
Talk to people outside your family, friend circle, and coworkers. Given the current situation, the conversation doesn’t necessarily have to happen in person. You can reach out to people on LinkedIn, join Facebook groups, and build relationships.
Today, the internet and the different platforms have made the process of networking a breeze. Sure, it takes effort and energy, but any worthwhile result requires the same.
Learn more about innovation in your area of interest:
Your area of interest will differ from mine. I am passionate about entrepreneurship, so I reading biographies and stories of other entrepreneurs. I also watch shows like Shark Tank to hear about other ideas.
You should explore more about ideas and renowned people in your field. Knowing their origin, concept, and techniques help you sharpen your own abilities.
3. Analyze the world around you
Every time you step outside the door, you meet new people and gain fresh experience. Even if you walk down the same path at the same time every single day, no two days will be exactly alike.
You can use your day to day experience to think deeper about your area. Irrespective of your profession or goals, you’ll have ample opportunities to think of ideas using what you see and hear.
Here are some examples:
- If you’re an author, a couple walking in the park holding hands can add a new chapter to your story
- If you’re an entrepreneur, you can look at a retail outlet and ask yourself, “What would I do better if I was the owner of the business?”
- If you’re a salesperson, imagine how you would sell your product to that stranger walking towards you
When you constantly think, you’ll spot opportunities. With enough opportunities, you will get many connected thoughts. With enough thoughts, you will encounter a few good ideas.
4. Use your thinking time
Keeping aside 15-30 min of your time every day to think helps you gain clarity to achieve your goals. I have written an article on how to best use your thinking abilities during your thinking time.
You can utilize a small portion of your thinking time to come up with little ideas for improvement.
Ideas do not only mean setting up a new business or finding a creative solution to a problem faced by thousands of people. Finding ways to improve yourself in small ways are ideas in itself.
For example, you can use your thinking time for ideas on:
- How to increase your patience
- How to be an understanding partner
- How to build better rapport
- How to be a loving parent
Neither do such changes require groundbreaking ideas, nor do they make a drastic difference in the short term. But, if you keep making little changes and avoid silly mistakes, you’ll reap the results in the long run.
5. Apply knowledge of one area into another
Most people do not apply their knowledge from one field to another. Do you believe physics is only for scientists, and making money in the stock market is all about picking the right stock? If so, you should reconsider your belief.
You can apply the physics behind casual effects on relationships and the concepts of psychology to investments. Charlie Munger, the billionaire partner of Warren Buffet, has devised his framework of decision making using pieces of anthropology, psychology, economics, and physics.
His multi-bagger investment choices are based on the lessons he learned from different areas. If you look at his recommended reading list, you will find a majority of the books touching one of those areas. He has not suggested them because they’re interesting. Rather, he has sees immense value in them because he absorbed the knowledge to analyze how all human beings make decisions.
Elon Musk said, “One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree. Make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
Though he was phrasing the importance of strengthening the core principles first, Elon Musk has always viewed knowledge as an interconnected web. He recommends translating knowledge from one domain to another.
When you are thinking of ideas, do not inhibit yourself from using your expertise across different fields. Look at your entire knowledge as one gigantic jigsaw puzzle. As you fill more pieces, you start realizing the whole picture.
Spending time broadening your awareness opens your mind to different perspectives and ideas.
Bonus tip: Use Mindmapping for brainstorming and execution
Mindmapping is a technique to brainstorm or think deeper about a core idea. For example, if you plan to improve your public speaking skills, you can use mind maps to think of different ways to make that happen. They are powerful for coming up with different ways to refine and execute an idea.
Here is a guide on how to create mindmaps. They are not usually used to generate an idea from scratch, but again you do not have to restrict yourself. If you can find a way to come up with new ideas using mindmaps, I’ll be all ears.
You hear about a famous person talking about how a small idea turned into a massive success. Little do you know that such people had hundreds of poor and average ideas they decided not to pursue.
Generating ideas isn’t only for smart and intelligent people. Even you can come up with powerful ideas if you put the effort and wait with patience. If you wait for ideas to show up themselves, you’ll end up waiting for a long time.
So you can start working on generating ideas irrespective of their quality, or you can wait for a brilliant idea to flash by itself, which by the way, may never happen. The choice is yours.
Leave a comment mentioning if you spend explicit time thinking of ideas.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.