In this article I will share with you what I found to be the three most effective ways to get new ideas. I have read quite a number of books on creativity and ideation. Some of the best were written by the godfather of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono. I would encourage you to read some of his books. Another is Tony Buzan who promoted the idea of mind mapping.
Here I will show you my distilled method for generating new ideas. The first step is to make sure you have a starting point. It is hard to come up with an idea out of thin air. That is why you need a starting point. So if you need to have an idea for say a new food business, we can use a burger restaurant as our starting point. If we are thinking of a new idea for a new video game, maybe we can use Angry Birds as our starting point. Please note a starting point does not mean we want to copy it. I will show you how we go from the starting point to the next step.
Now that we have a starting point we can employ our three methods for being creative. A moment here to explain the next steps. The three methods that I am proposing are brainstorming techniques. If you are familiar with brainstorming then you will recognize that no idea is bad. Some ideas are just stepping stones for more ideas. During the brainstorming session, the whole point is just to collect as many wild or crazy ideas as possible. Some will trigger a truly good one. Now for the three methods:
- Reverse. Take your starting point and reverse it. Let’s not have a burger restaurant. Let’s make it a pancake restaurant. Is there a business opportunity there? How about we don’t have a restaurant, we have delivery only burger sandwiches? For the video game, we may go with say, forget entertainment, have a serious game targeted at schools to teach about birds.
You see where I am getting at? You could go on generating ideas and thoughts using this reversing technique. Remember, don’t evaluate ideas as you’re generating them. Just write them down. The analysis and evaluation comes later.
- Exaggerate. Here you take the starting point and blow it out of proportion. You could make it bigger. Or make it smaller, wider, thinner, whatever. So for the burger joint, how about a burger place that offers 500 ways to make your burger, or a thousand. Hey, maybe servers at the joint can provide the patties and the burgers and customers fix their own sandwiches with about thirty different types of condiments. Could this be a new burger concept?
For the video game starting point, how about, the game is so big that everyone in the world plays it. A multiplayer game where each player is taking sling shots at other players’ characters. Hey why don’t we make them big birds, no even bigger, pterodactyls, the flying dinosaurs and the pigs should be replaced with tyrannosaurus’.
- Analogy. I use the word analogy here to mean any cross over between two completely different things. So for example let’s cross over our two examples of burger place and video game to see where it will take us. We could think of a burger place where video game competitions are held and placed on big screens for all the restaurant patrons to watch while they eat. Or we could think of making burgers as a video game.
I hope you find these techniques can help in triggering new ideas. Most important, don’t judge while you’re brainstorming. Put them down on paper first and analyse them later.