How to Generate Creative Ideas

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How creative are your ideas? How many creative ideas do you get? And what process do you use to generate creative ideas. The ability to think creatively, or generate creative ideas might just be the skill that gives you a competitive edge. Below is a model which is a combination of Graham Wallas’ and James Webb Young’s creativity models (Based on my life experiences, I have added information to the models). What can you add to the model to make it better? If your project is just for fun you do not have to follow all the steps, especially the ones in data collection (for example interviewing subject matter experts and conducting focus group interviews). Some of these steps are more appropriate for a work project.

Step 1: Preparation (Gathering Information)

  1. Describe your topic of  interest
  2. Develop a set of decision criteria to judge the quality of the ideas

There are two types of information to gather:

Specific

  1. Gather as much information as possible on the topic of interest
    1. Look for  case studies in your industry and unrelated industries
    2. Conduct research on the internet
    3. Conduct research using commercial databases, you can access many through your public library portal
    4. Interview subject matter experts
    5. Brainstorm with colleagues
    6. Conduct focus group interviews
  2. Read all the information gathered and synthesize them
  3. Write down the information on 3×5 index cards, one item per card
  4. Classify the information by sections of the topic of interest

Read the post How to Analyze Information to evaluate the quality of the data you gathered.

General

  1. This is an ongoing process throughout your life
  2. Record any interesting information you come across in a scrapbook or other filing method that makes sense for you
  3. Use your cell phone if you have one, or a camera to capture any interesting scenes that you see, both photos and videos and create a file on your computer in which to save them
  4. Attend speeches, workshops, seminars and so on that are unrelated to your work just because they interest you and take notes
  5. Visit the websites How Stuff Works and Ted.com often and read for a while
  6. Every so often, pull up the information and review them

Step 2: Working Over the Information in Your Mind

  1. Look at the information you gathered from many different angles
  2. Synthesize the information
  3. Merge two facts and see how they fit together
  4. Connect the information with what you already know, nothing exists in a vacuum
  5. As tentative or partial ideas come to you, no matter how crazy or incomplete, document them on the index card, one idea per card
  6. Do not stop until you have at least one partial or incomplete idea
  7. When everything is a jumble or it is pointless for you to do additional work, it is time for the next step

Step 3: Incubation

  1. Turn over the problem to your subconscious mind
  2. Take a break or work on an unrelated task or do something which stimulates the imagination and emotions

Step 4: Illumination – Eureka! I have It

  1. When you least expect it, the idea comes to you (You have an aha moment)

Step 5: Verification/Implementation/Shaping & Developing the Idea

  1. The idea will unlikely be ready to be implemented as is
  2. Subject it to criticism – test it, then refine it
    1. Use the criteria you developed in Stage I to judge the quality of the solution
    2. Refine the idea if you have to
    3. Implement the idea
    4. Evaluate the idea
    5. If you find that the solution doesn’t work, go through the process again

Along Yonge Street in front of the Eaton Centre in Toronto, Canada there are always people who are very creative in earning money, what are your thoughts? What have been some of your most creative ideas to generate some extra cash? Did any of these translate into a viable business?

Man Playing Drums in Front of The Eaton Centre, Toronto from Avil Beckford on Vimeo.

Man and Boy Playing Drums from Avil Beckford on Vimeo.

Please keep the conversation flowing, click on the comment link below and leave a note for me.

Photo Credit: Avil Beckford

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