We all live in a world where our ability to come up with creative ideas and run with them is one of the biggest competitive advantage that we could have in our professional and personal lives.
So, if you agree and think that you want to hone this skill to become someone who is good at this, the following 7 practices will be of help:
- Travel & Experience: Travelling to new places forces your mind to become aware of things around you. You start noticing things that you would otherwise not notice in your home town. Travelling also exposes you to different cultures and their points-of-view, which can help you in coming up with non-conforming (for your culture) ideas.
- Copy & Adapt: There are so many examples of creative people being inspired by something and coming up awesome ideas. Have you noticed the similarity between the iPad and a common slate that we used while we were growing up a couple of decades ago. Have you also noticed the uncanny similarity between the design of the iPod with Braun radio?
- Exploration & Exposure: One of the best ways to enable yourself to come up with creative ideas is to explore diverse subjects, not necessarily from our own field of work. Our mind is a pattern making machine. The more options it has to mix and match, the more creative it can get with its patterns.
- Focus & Train: One way that I come up with ideas is to decide a theme for a week and try to see everything from the perspective of this theme. For example, the theme for this week is “Health”. So, every time I am thinking about something, I am thinking from the perspective of and impact on health. Every idea that I come up this week, will have something to do with health. Even if I have to come up with an idea for a conference that i need to plan, I will include elements that will make the participants healthier for having attended the conference. What this practice does is, it allows your mind to make new patterns based on your existing ideas and neural networks.
- Add or Delete: One easy practice to come up with creative ideas is to practice what I call add or delete. Take an existing idea and add a new element or component to it or take away some element of the idea or do both. For example, if you were looking for creative ideas for a new running shoe, you take an existing running shoe – add a wearable device which measures the pressure on each feet while running, delete the need for laces or velcro, replace the fabric on top with an elastic material that ensures that the shoe always remains close to the legs and we have a creative idea for a new shoe. Nike, Reebok are you guys reading this?
- X of Y: This is a trend that we have now seen in the startup world. People talk about new ideas as being X of Y. For example, we want to to be the Uber of the hotel industry, we want to be the SAP of the small scale businesses, etc. You can apply the same concept and come up with creative ideas as well. For example, you want to come up with an idea for a new running shoe, you could say that we want to be the Uber of running – which could mean that instead of selling your shoes, you might want to just rent them out – a new business model, which if you put some more thought on, can become a viable business idea.
- Practice: Our brain is also a muscle and needs regular exercise. One of the best ways to be able to come up with creative ideas on demand, is to train your mind to come up with creative ideas every single day. This is probably the reason why Seth Godin talks about writing every single day or James Altucher talks about the importance of generating 10 ideas every day. This practice not only trains our idea muscle but also gives us the confidence that we have the capacity to come up with creative ideas on-demand.
These are my personal practices that help me come up with creative ideas on demand. Do you have any practice that helps you? Please do share them with us and continue this conversation.