How to generate ideas for anything
To start innovating and improve things you need a good selection of ideas to choose from. You can’t just have one idea because it makes it hard to evaluate it and you might fall in love with that idea and not think of the better options.
I always think you should generate lots of ideas to choose from. Some of them can be really bad but they fill a purpose in putting the good ideas in perspective.
So how do you generate ideas?
Here are some different ways:
Sit down and type
This is the brute force version. Just sit down and type ideas until you feel completely empty. First it will be a bit slow and bad but it might get better with each idea until you hit a peak and have to take a break.
Take a walk, a run or a shower
Your brain is not a solitary entity. It actually works better when you body is in motion. My experience is that taking a walk or even better a run, and then a shower leads to a lot of good thoughts and ideas. If you come up with multiple ideas the best ones will be the ones you remember so don’t worry too much about writing everything down.
Read books on different topics
It’s easy to think that reading books about business innovation or a book about your area of work is the most impactful. It can be helpful but to get new ideas a lot of times it can be better to read something else. Read a Chinese science fiction book, a book about the world, the history of man or a biography of someone famous. The wider your understanding of the world, the easier it is to get new ideas.
Think in opposites
Take something that seems obvious and turn it around. What if it was the complete opposite. Like what would happen if instead of you selling people your stuff, you paid them to take it and you make money in another way. Or what if instead of creating an online community you open physical locations.
Ask a friend or do an interview
Understand more about your potential customers and what is important for them. Try to really get under their skin with the questions and don’t stop asking why. You will be surprised by what you learn, and might have to change your mind about stuff you take for granted.
Look at the competition
Get inspiration from your competition. Don’t do as they do but learn from what they do and their mistakes. Think of better ways of doing it and maybe try the opposite way of doing it.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”Oscar Wilde
Travel and experience other cultures
Maybe you don’t have to travel that far. Go to a different part of town, meet people who aren’t like you and your neighbor. Or travel to a foreign country and truly immerse yourself in the culture. See how they experience the world and what they feel is important. You will learn a lot.
Have a beer
I’m not promoting doing drugs. But drinking a beer or a glass of wine helps you relax and can lead your thoughts to new paths. Doing in the company of others can also help. Just remember to not drink too much, or you might forget that brilliant thought.
Take a nap
It may sound counter intuitive but taking a nap during daytime can actually help you work more efficiently. Your brain recharges and relaxing and drifting off can help with coming up with new ideas. Even just 15 minutes can work.
Be the customer
Put yourself in the position of an actual customer to whatever you are doing. Try to buy something and walk through the whole “customer journey”. You will see a lot of things that needs to be improved and could be better.
Start with the question
List all the problems you can come up with. Try to ask really good questions. Often the answer is really easy to find just if you have the right question.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”Albert Einstein