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I think I’ll invent something new

Whether it is the compilation of new ideas for our clients’ web sites, developing a new piece of software or improving an existing one, arranging or writing music or resolving a business challenge, I often occupy my mind with ideas of how to generate new ideas. So let’s explore some of the best ways of generating such new ideas:

  • Read books and important publications – I love reading and would admit that I used to get irritated that the process generally takes me a long time. It is quite common that my mind wanders with each page I read. When recently discussing this phenomenon with a trusted colleague, I’ve come to realize that it is actually my way of questioning and generating new ideas. This helped transform my way of thinking and this potential handicap into a huge source of strength and benefit. Books of all genres and great publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Forbes, The New York Times and others, are a great source of learning and generating new ideas.
  • Summarize – Use a highlighter, pencil or a notepad to summarize your reading and document your ideas. The essence is to capture the ideas when they occur and when they are fresh; otherwise you may never retrieve them again.
  • Travel – The more I enrich my life with travel to interesting and exiting places, the more I meet fascinating people, learn of others’ cultures and gain insights to new ways of thinking. I love to explore and start conversations with new people while taking pictures or videos which some become great material for my blog.
  • Flying – Perhaps it’s the altitude or just my mindset but for some odd reason I find the flying experience quite rewarding, which adds greatly to my creativity. I am always armed (no pun intended) with great books, reading material, my iPod loaded with great music and collection of digital books, audio and video podcasts and recorded workshops and of course my laptop containing my collection of videos and other interesting and stimulating resources.
  • Be Curios and observe – Opportunities are all around us; we just have to learn to pay better attention. Last year I’ve attended a remarkable weekend in New York with a small group of close and amazing colleagues. Each one of us had a suite at the world-class and elegant New York Palace. We traveled the city, dined in some of the best restaurants, had private museum tours and discussed politics, art, life and business. While having our Sunday breakfast and overlooking New York form the 51st floor of this amazing hotel we discussed this same topic of where ideas come from. Within seconds each one of us came up with some fascinating topics by simply watching and observing the magnificent views in front of us.
  • Create books of ideas – I always carry with me my small book of ideas where I constantly notate my thoughts. I also have a note pad everywhere in my home so this way I may instantly jot down my ideas when they occur.
  • Brainstorm with others – I find the experience of brainstorming with smart and successful colleagues to be one of the best and probably my most favorite way of generating and testing new ideas. The key for me is to surround myself with trusted colleagues who have a successful track record.
  • Engage a mastermind group or a team of trusted advisors – Similar to the concept of brainstorming with others, I do find that being a part of a powerful mastermind group and trusted advisors is a great way to improve your ideas and creativity.
  • Invest in self-development – A Japanese Proverb says: “I will master something, then the creativity will come.” Attending great workshops helps me learn new concepts, refine my way of thinking and come up with new ideas to share with my clients so I may improve their business.
  • Internalize – It’s one thing to watch and listen to new material and something completely different when one internalizes and masters it. I find the latter the critical element necessary to improve myself and others I help.
  • Question basic assumptions – I learned over the years how to better frame the issues I am facing and to always question basic assumptions. This applies not just to my own assumption but also to those of my advisors and clients. By also exploring the cause and affect it enables me to gain new insights to arrive to the proper solution. Finally, the ability to apply ideas, tools and approaches I’ve learned and mastered to the challenge is the key to generating successful results.
  • Take a contrarian view while discussing the pros and cons of a concept – Clients hire me not to necessarily agree with them but to often question their views and basic premises in order to improve their business. I find that in addition to presenting the pros and cons of ideas, taking a contrarian view and what’s in the client’s best interest consistently gains more credibility than simply being agreeable.
  • Develop and use metaphors – Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, I find the use of metaphors to be a powerful way to give us the tools and the ability to articulate a complex concept in a pithy way. Here is a great example, which is applicable to many industries as well as software and Internet development: “Sure, you can hammer in a nail with a bowling ball, but it’s not designed to do that.”
  • Create a story – Anytime I take a concept that I want to convey to my audience and deliver it through the use of an effective story, it forces me to develop ideas to make it more effective.
  • Engage your senses – As I mentioned above when discussing the concept of being curious and observing, you will augment this by engaging most of your senses as applicable.
  • Interview others – I find this to be a terrific way to learn, gain new ideas, and leverage effective marketing while developing new content for your web site and that of the person you are interviewing in the form of audio or video podcasting.
  • Search the Internet – I find the Internet (when used properly) to be the ultimate repository of Intellectual property and ideas. Even when writing this article, I searched for quotes that I may use to effectively illustrate my points. The key is to learn how to use it effectively and one of the ways to do so is to ask others how they use it.
  • Social networking – There is also a lot of garbage on the net but when joining effective and smart online communities, you may quickly gain the knowledge to what is being asked and discussed and how you may be of help to others.
  • Instantiate – I love this word. Its definition is: “To represent (an abstract concept) by a concrete or tangible example” or simply to simplify a complex concept. There are two things I would like to mention and their applicability to generating new ideas. First is my belief that learning and improving one’s language has a direct and huge impact on one’s knowledge and generation of ideas. Second is that when I take a complex issue and simplifying it or making it user-friendly through my writing and speaking, it helps me better understand the concept which I am sure has the same affect for my audience.
  • Teach a topic – There is no better way of mastering a subject than having to teach it. I know this from experience and have written on that in the past. Many years ago when Lotus 1-2-3 first came out, I was asked to teach it in one of the local colleges. Two weeks before the class I was asked if I knew it and would teach it. “Of course I do and would” I answered. In a short time period I taught myself the software, prepared the class and delivered a terrific experience to all students. One of my first top clients originated in that class which not only proves that you can master a topic quickly and especially when you have to teach it, but the concept that ideas and opportunities constantly surround us.
  • Create a process visual – As mentioned above, I see metaphors as our ability to articulate, clarify and paint a picture through words. A business chart often does the same in one effective visual.
  • Speak – Similar to teaching a topic, delivering your wisdom by speaking to an audience enables you and forces you to research and come up with new ideas while interacting with your audience which often stimulates other ideas.
  • Write – I find the process of writing the way for me to better learn what I do while sharing ideas with my readers and clients. It is the magic that takes the ideas and transforms them to become a reality.

Scott Adams said: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” The secret to creating, developing and innovating new ideas is to simply take action and do it. There is no better way for creating such ideas than to just schedule the time or let the magic take place when the moment occurs. It requires you challenge yourself and take risks at times or take a break and relax at other times.

© Chad Barr 2008 All rights reserved.

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