Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CAREER ADVANCEMENT / JUL. 06, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Generate Good Ideas Naturally

Everyone wants to be an innovative thinker, but it’s difficult to do this without understanding how our minds work. Whether you’re an artist, entrepreneur, homemaker, or anything else, the ability to generate good ideas is a useful skill.

If generating good ideas was easy, we’d all be rich, famous, and constantly coming up with unique ones. However, the skill is rather elusive to most of us. With a hectic schedule and tons of stress, fitting creativity into your day may seem unnatural or even impossible.

Think outside the box- and then bring your ideas back inside.

We’re often instructed to think outside the box for school and work projects, but rarely do we talk about what this really means. How does one think outside the box? Is there an actual method or is it a "have it or you don’t" kind of skill?

Metaphors bring seemingly unrelated things together, which often allows for innovative ideas. Many of the most famous ideas spawned from surprising sources. Phil Farnsworth, credited with inventing the TV, came up with the idea while plowing a potato field.

These inventors are often thought of as geniuses, more cerebral and capable than the rest of us. However, it’s entirely possible for any of us drum up metaphorical ideas or solutions in everyday life. The first step is being aware of when the opportunity presents itself. 

When you feel stuck in a project, that probably means it’s time to get up and do something else. Eventually, everyone will run out of ideas if working on a project long enough. If you can find a way to renew or twist your perspective, you can return with a fresh direction. Our brains can take what we’ve learned from one task, and use it to solve a seemingly unrelated task. This is how many renowned scientists invented and discovered new things. 

So the take away is to never underestimate the significance of unrelated tasks. If you play a sport or enjoy a hobby, take a break and do that thing. You may feel like you’re wasting time. However, it’s often when we are doing these tasks, with our minds on stand-by, that great ideas pop up. Studies show that exercise helps tremendously with brain function. Even conversations with others about unrelated topics can help knock loose some new ideas. The keyword is newness- not rehashing the same old thoughts about a project.

All you have to do once you’re participating in these other activities is realize the potential of an idea. Try to reel it back into the confines of your project. This is definitely not easy, but can be very rewarding once you learn to think abstractly. 

Experience ideas instead of forcing ideas.

In his creativity manifesto, Hugh Macleod says, “Writer’s block is just a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should say something.”

This applies not only to writing ideas, but to ideas in general. Ideas cannot be forced; they must be coaxed out of us. If you try to force it, rigidity and tension will keep your ideas from manifesting clearly. You may come up with something, but it won’t be brilliant and it won’t be your best work.

Creativity is stifled in a tense mindset, but it comes through when we’re in a fluid, playful mindset. This is why it’s difficult to be creative at work or under any other kind of pressure. Even if you feel pressure to think of something immediately, willing yourself to be patient will yield better results. 

Once you’re able to recognize when you shift into this creative mindset, grab a pen and paper or save your thoughts through any means necessary. We aren’t always in control of the process, and it’s important to take complete advantage of creativity when it manifests. Be openminded and willing to explore possibilities, even if they seem silly. 

Keep these things in mind when chasing those elusive good ideas.

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