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Discover Your own Creative Process: How to Gain Many Ideas

These are methods and principles that will help you gain ideas. Be patient with the list, you might find that some in particular work for your learning style. So go through them all!

"People do not lack strength; they lack will" - Victor Hugo.

What actions we take is related to what we choose to give up. Bursts of creativity are fired up once you have made up your mind to complete a task. To find that burst of energy, you need to specify where you are heading and go beyond the perception you have of your own strength. You might find that once you don't know your limits, tiredness become more elusive and you still have a little more energy to give. Here is where it gets interesting. It is easy to work when you have the drive, but what if you lose it for a while. Will you keep working? Or will you spend that last energy on something less aching?

Creativity can happen in that moment where it just isn’t fun anymore, where you’re pushing the limits and go where no one wants to be. This takes a lot of willpower and the more you keep stretching your limits, the stronger will that power grow. The funny thing about this situation, is that only you know exactly where the limits are experienced. Nobody can help you through it, sure you can always get somebody to give you a motivational speech but that doesn't really help you in the long run.

Another aspect of tiredness can be fear. If you are afraid of "not knowing" when you work, then this is a perfect recipe to not be creative. Taking a chance, pushing the limit, moving toward what seems risky - takes energy. You will not have sufficient energy if you are afraid, actually fear takes that energy and turns it into a protective shield from any uncertainties. Creativity techniques are fine and fun to do, but if the underlying foundation of your process is weak than no technique will save you. Let's not make creativity in to a new panacea.

Nevertheless here are some techniques to help you gain more ideas:

1. Rephrase your questions. If you for example ask “How can I get more clients” this question might not get your head ticking. So rephrase the question into something like: “if I were to be the client, what might I be looking for?".

2. Can you have two things in your head at the same time? Play association games with cards or construct mind maps. This is a very effective way to get ideas since you avoid taking a step-by-step approach to your problem and instead randomly puzzle up different things to see if you can discover new ways to solve the problem.

3. There are tons of ways for you to be creative; one very important approach is to read a lot and in that process you need to let your brain take care of the different clues it brings to your own problem… your job is to take notes and then decide to focus on the best ideas.

4. Find your own way of working. As mentioned above you must not follow to many guidelines without deliberately adapting them to the way in which you best work. If you read somewhere that the most effective way to get ideas is listening to Mozart because his music does magic with your brain, you should definitely try it… if it works… then that’s great! If it does not work, at least now you know that this is not your way and that makes you that much closer to finding your own approach. This method is basically based on one simple principle: trial and error. Experiment. Creative processes cannot be forced, the process should be easy and help you gain ideas, not disturb your focus.

5. Think big and go crazy with it! Who cares that your ideas are dumb, in fact when you let go of your model of being a disciplined idea generator who does not want to embarrass yourself with nuts thoughts, you probably will get good ideas and the entire creative process will become much more exciting. This is a fun quote about taking chances by Lincoln Steffens:

“Somebody must take a chance. The monkeys who became men, and the monkeys who didn’t are still jumping around in trees making faces at the monkeys who did.”

Push yourself to write down or draw crazy ideas on paper or your computer.

6. Do the opposite of what you normally do with creativity enhancing activities. Look into other fields that can give you insights and possibly new directions to solve your problem. For example if you draw, try doing some math.

7. No matter how painful working hard is, keep going at it! In many writings that concern creativity you find a common principle that says “if you are stuck it might help you to step away for a while and do something else”, in the matter of fact that is what the previous principle taught us. But we must be careful before we attempt this as it might be a tempting reason to avoid a problem that won’t go away. Sometimes when you feel that anxious burn inside where you just can’t figure out how to solve the problem, well that can be the peek where you’re almost there, where you’re fully concentrated and know exactly what the problem is about. If you leave at that moment you just might miss the chance to earn a brilliant idea. Stick around a little while longer and see what happens.

8. Get inspired. Ideas can be difficult to gain when you are not motivated to act or work. By reading reflections on creativity you can bring up your spirit and willingness to keep on.

9. Take time. When timing yourself you have switched a perception that might say “I have all day to gain a good idea” into “I have five minutes”. If you are someone who hates pressure, this exercise will be of great practice to you, try not to avoid it.

10. Try some brainstorming exercises.

11. Vision, the Power of Anticipation. Set your mind on goals and clearly define what it is you want to solve. Picture in your head that you have already gotten the ideas, not that you need to get them. Then from there on go backwards on what happened to the place you are now. This will give you direction. What steps did you go through?

12. Bad ideas are often good resources that lead to great ideas. Instead of trying to get good ideas that will help you, ask yourself what would destroy you. When focusing on what you most definitely should not do you will get closer to discovering what would be of great value to do.

13. Find what learning style you prefer most: kinaesthetic, visual or auditory? This will help you understand your working process better and help you get ideas. There are tests you can take on the web that will help you figure out what learning style you prefer. Basically...

Kinesthetic learners obtain information best when moving. If you've been sitting all day long in front of the computer without ideas then take a walk or go for a jog. These kind of learners need adventure and discovery to get their minds going.
Visual learners take in information through seeing. These people simply need to see a picture to understand it. Try drawing out diagrams and sketches to keep your mind going.
Auditory learners learn by listening. If you have written down notes for yourself then try reading them out loud.

14. Getting many ideas is like anything else, if you want to be good at it you need to practice and be honest when something does not work out. When you hold on to a none working idea, you waste all your energy on it and immediately restrain yourself to look for new and fresh perspectives.

15. Look at previous innovations and list them. These already finished ideas should preferably be connected to your own field of expertise. Now, pick your first innovation and break it down into pieces in your mind or on paper. Try to understand the process in which that particular invention has been made and what the creator has gone through to establish it. Can you backwards-engineer it? Ask yourself possible questions that might have lead to the final product. This will help you think like a problem solver.

16. Exchange your ideas you with friends (you trust) who do not have the same expertise you have but have other frames of references and thoughts. It is always good to talk to others who have a different mindset than you do, they will help you discover new sides and possibly faults with the way you are approaching the problem.

17. Find somewhere to hide and start writing. Write junk until your arms hurt. Sometimes ideas are difficult to obtain not because your mind is empty but because you’re holding too much information in your head, hence it's difficult for you to focus. So write it off, just keep at it even when your writing doesn't make any sense. If you find it easier to doodle, then do that instead.

18. Zoom in and out. Take a broader view at a problem and when you feel that you’re seeing the “whole picture” zoom into a detailed view. When you think you have found a couple of possible solutions to that detail, go back to the broader view and see how this affects your work. When you get into details, you can segment them into different categories that make it easier to deal with them.
For example:

Cannot be changed: details you are planning to remain unchanged.
Most complex: details you find most challenging and need to devote most time figuring out.
Done deals: these are the parts you already have good solutions for and don’t need to take up too much time.

19. Incubate or just relax. You can treat yourself with this state once you have already filled your brain with information until it just cannot take anymore.

The reason many people get their ideas in the shower is because they feel relaxed there, so they forget all about it. There are even people who choose to have miniature waterfalls in their workplace to recreate the "shower feel"... you don't need to do that, the point is to find a way that relaxes you.

20. Being observant and finding problems in everything you encounter can be a fun game. Deliberately think about what is absent. When you are looking at something, ask yourself what might be missing. The best way to find solutions to a problem is to fully understand it first.

21. If you are a subscriber or common reader here at DUDYE, you might have read once (or twice) that it is to your advantage to look at things from a different point of view. There are plenty of ways in which you can use this method because perception makes a big difference on how we approach our problems. We all have an image of who we are and how we think. Sometimes it is helpful to change that perception. Take a look from other peoples’ eyes. If you’re a designer, you need to look through your clients’ and competition’s point of view.

Also, it’s not unusual to think that we "never" will come up with good ideas, thus instead of dealing with that drama, start asking yourself what your favorite “genius” would have done in your position: “What would Einstein have done in my place?” This in itself is also a process you need to go through where the person you change perception with must have been investigated by you so that you have some understanding of how they think and where they would stand in relation to your problem. Doing this with a random genius which you have not studied doesn't really make sense.


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2 Comments


  1. Nahuel says:

    Will, will is what I lack. I also need to change my perspective and see the problem from others' view.

    I definitely should read more and know more.
    I'm curious about how many ideas and thoughts I may have hidden within me a long ago just because they were weird or meaningless.

  2. DUDYE says:

    Look for Problems to solve (this is a major will increase), if there is a problem that you really can't stand, than this automatically creates an urge in you to understand more about solving it.

    Another actor is hunger, which you should be aware of. If you overeat or overindulge in a subject-area which you already have mastery in, boredom and stagnation will be the result.

    as Steve Jobs once said:
    Stay Hungry... Stay Foolish.

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