Do you ever wonder how some people are always full of ideas? How do you approach creativity and idea generation? This is the first part of a three-part series on generating ideas, building confidence and validating them, and executing the immediately actionable as well as the ones that are longer-term in scope.
It all starts with mindset: "to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative." This is the assertion Twyla Tharp makes at the beginning of her book The Creative Habit, which I will use loosely as an inspiration to seed some thoughts on generating ideas.
With me so far? Now imagine that you are the Chief Idea Officer at your business and your job is to look to solve problems in new ways. Many of the ideas we have are often business-related. They usually hit us when we least expect it. Chances are we have been thinking about an issue or maybe a series of small challenges has been nagging at us.
The constraint of needing to dig deeper is good. However we do not need to spend months chasing the solution for a problem while it seems to become increasingly complex. That is the reason why I like Tharp's explanation that we can make creativity a habit -- and it starts with who we are. To find out about your creative DNA, think about your life story in terms of creative autobiography.
Let me take you through a couple of examples of the questions to ask yourself by answering two from Tharp's book and asking one of my own:
- What is the best idea you ever had? To follow my vision of working and living in another language and culture that felt intuitively more appropriate to the way I already think: more direct, metaphor-based, and flexible/adaptable.
- What made it great in your mind? It was already laid out in my mind so clearly that I could visualize both the end result: living in another country, and the process I would need to design to get there. Things are nonlinear often enough, especially in life where you seldom have control over what other people do and what resources are available to you. However, my gut told me when I was making the right choices among the ones available to me.
And now my own question to you: When do you feel most alive? Start there by observing what you pay attention to, what engages you, and what you are drawn to.
You develop other great ideas when you're facing a career change. When we face something new, something that is forcing us to think a little harder to grow, and other parts of our lives are also affected. Do you remember the feeling of possibility you experienced when you fell in love? A career change gives you the opportunity to consider things under a new lens.
In this case, what you do is take the experiences, skills, and feelings you have developed so far and stored away in your permanent memory and find new ways to connect them for what's next. That will result in thinking about different job opportunities and how to unleash your talent and work history to serve you in a new role. What is your story going to communicate? Think of it in detail and then project your memory of past achievements into the future work you will accomplish and you have an authentic impulse for new ideas.
Another way to come up with new ideas is by changing environment: that's what Tharp calls being in "scratching mode". I do a lot of scratching by going through books, articles, and the writing of other people. It may feel to you like you're borrowing someone else's idea while you do that; remember that all ideas are built on existing ones. For example, I have been writing this post by connecting ideas gathered from my experience and other people's stories, articles, and The Creative Habit.
While the creative process for new ideas is different for every person, it is the confidence we have in ourselves that allows the ideas to bubble to the surface. More importantly, it is this confidence rooted in self-esteem and practice that allows us to implement our creativity. I talk about self-esteem and confidence because these are your best allies to defy fear, negative personal judgment, and the chattering of your mind.
So in response to where ideas come from I offer that they come from everywhere. Tomorrow we will discuss how to get through those inhibiting perceptions that could kill your ideas before you have a chance to try them out and make them stronger.