Have you ever felt stuck when coming up with an idea? Maybe you need a business idea, or an article idea, or an idea to help you solve a problem. And you feel like your idea well has run dry.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone, and it feels like dangerous territory. Ideas are the lifeblood of entrepreneurship. They enable you to solve problems, engage your audience, and come up with new products.
Any threat to your ability to think up new ideas can seem as if it’s threatening your business. But don’t worry., there are a few things you can do to make sure you never run out of ideas again.
Try these 5 tips to become a true idea machine:
1. Flex your idea muscle
Your ability to come up with ideas can be strengthened. Like a bicep or quad muscle, the more you work your idea generation muscle, the stronger it becomes. In the book Choose Yourself, James Altucher suggests writing 10 ideas every day. They don’t have to be good ideas or live up to any standard.
They just have to be ideas. Whether you’re writing ideas to solve small problems you have around the house, business ideas or project ideas, write down 10 ideas every single day. Over the course of a year, you’ll have written 3,650 ideas and have strengthened that idea muscle.
“Ideas come from everything” – Alfred Hitchcock
2. Ask questions
It’s an interesting truth that many of us have never considered. The strength and quantity of our ideas are limited to the strength of our sphere of experience and knowledge. For instance, it’s difficult to come up with an idea to solve a problem you don’t know exists, a creative solution you never knew was a possibility, or an angle you’ve never even imagined.
So how do you expand your sphere of experience and knowledge? By borrowing some of other people’s. If you ask meaningful questions of others, you’ll be able to expand your knowledge of other people’s problems, solutions, and stories.
Next time you meet a stranger, instead of asking “what do you do?” or “how are you?” ask “what is the best thing that happened to you today?” or “what’s one solution you wish you had right now?”. These may seem odd questions, but they’ll help you break the idea seal.
3. Get out of your comfort zone
Ideas are a creative process. Think about it, when you’re generating ideas you’re just coming up with creative solutions to problems. So it makes sense that to come up with more creative ideas, you need to expand your creative capacities, and one of the best ways to do this is to get out of your comfort zone.
Getting out of your comfort zone by traveling, putting yourself out there, and doing things outside of your norm will help you become more creative and therefore generate more ideas. So do something you wouldn’t normally do. You may be surprised with the ideas you’re able to come up with.
4. Stop being a “tryhard”
Have you ever noticed that your best ideas come to you when you’re doing something mundane? You’re showering, driving or going for a walk, and all of a sudden…Eureka! Your brain has been graced by the presence of the idea fairy.
Yet during those times when you’re actually trying to come up with an idea, it’s really difficult. Maybe you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with a product name or article topic. And you find yourself sitting there in dumb silence, with the cursor blinking or a blank page in front of you. Your brain is blank. That’s because you’re trying too hard.
Like relationships, ideas don’t come to tryhards – they come to people who aren’t actively seeking them. So instead of trying too hard to come up with ideas, let your mind wander. Engage in mundane, routine activities to give your brain the space it needs to come up with the next big idea.
“No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo
5. Immerse yourself
Ideas don’t stand alone. They come from somewhere. The last idea you came up with was likely influenced by some piece of knowledge you had absorbed or something somebody said. Without the information we take in, we would have no base from which to generate ideas.
That’s where immersion comes in. If you want to generate a ton of ideas, you need to immerse yourself in information. Read autobiographies. Immerse yourself in articles and books and podcasts. Tune into the radio and watch documentaries and movies. Have conversations.
Ideas are often sparked by unexpected connections between the problem you’re trying to solve and something seemingly unrelated. By immersing yourself in idea-fueling information, you’ll be able to make more of those connections and become far more effective in coming up with creative ideas and solutions.
So go out and start generating ideas. Right now, it might seem like you’ll never have a good idea again.
But as you start to flex that idea muscle, ask questions, get out of your comfort zone, and immerse yourself (without trying too hard), you’ll notice the ideas begin to flow naturally again.And if you continue to engage in these activities, those ideas will keep coming.