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5 Crazy-Simple Hacks to Never Run Out of Good Ideas Again

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5 Crazy-Simple Hacks to Never Run Out of Good Ideas Again

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.

Thank you for reading my article! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Sarah

    May 20, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    Writing ten ideas a day is a great idea. Sometimes things that seem zany one minute seem totally doable the next!

  2. Guilherme

    Aug 11, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    great post and I think many people need to take it to heart.
    I am by nature very curious and connect things well (but suck at a hell lot of other things).

    One key to creativity I find is wandering, I noticed that as I increased my podcast consumption, I much more alert on the go and my brain shuts down.

    Funny enough, another great way to stretch my idea muscle I found is commenting on blogs 🙂 Take an idea, think about it and connect your own ideas to it and you’ll end-up moving into interesting pathways.

  3. Wanda

    Aug 10, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Thank-you Sarah,

    5 great tips to help us become idea machines! I particularly liked #5. It really does help when you surround yourself with relevant information. That’s when the ideas start to flow in!

  4. Dotchamou Zakari

    Aug 8, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you for these valuable ideas you are sharing with us. We are all artist but our modern life do anything possible to kill our genius and talent. If we want to live our true life, we have to be an artist. I think that your post gives simple tips on how to be creative.
    I want to share these quotes with all the readers of this post

    “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

    “Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” – Leo Burnett

  5. Ethan Bridges

    Aug 8, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Hey Sarah,

    Nice post!

    I like your “tryhard” tip. That’s a nice way to balance all tension.

    I always try to maintain a level of curiosity, the more annoying level, the better 🙂 But I guard against overthinking too. Curiosity will take us a long way. They can stop us from making excuses.

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Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

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