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Weekly 3: Tools for brainstorming

Summary: Generate better ideas more consistently. Exercise your “idea muscle” to be more creative. Us

Idea Journal Weekly 3

May 6 · Issue #33 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Generate better ideas more consistently. Exercise your “idea muscle” to be more creative. Use a simple test to find out when you have a big idea. (~6 min read)
Ideas #2 and #3 are from previous issues, and we’ve included them here because they fit well with this issue’s theme: tools for brainstorming.

#1. Structure your creative work to generate better ideas.
Author and creativity consultant Todd Henry makes the following observation in his book The Accidental Creative: many people agree that coming up with great ideas is a key factor to achieving professional success, but hardly anyone schedules dedicated time to generate ideas.
One reason for this discrepancy is that a lot of people believe great ideas only come spontaneously, through inspiration – they don’t think generating creative ideas can be done purposefully.
But as Henry points out, establishing a “creative rhythm” can give structure to your creative work, even when things are busy.
To do this, look into the below 5 areas, which you can memorize as FRESH:
Focus: Our minds are naturally good at finding patterns, but it’s hard to take advantage of this ability if our thinking is cluttered.
To help keep you focused, identify your “Big 3.” Here’s how: list all of your personal and work-related projects; select those that are most in need of a conceptual breakthrough; and of these remaining projects, ask: Which 3 are the most pressing?
Relationships: Many of our relationships are based on convenience or obligation, but Henry recommends being more strategic.
Organize a circle of like-minded people who inspire you with their vision, strategic thinking, and their track record of executing great ideas.
Energy: It’s hard to come up with creative solutions when you’re exhausted, so it’s important to manage your energy as well as your time.
Whenever possible, put your effort into activities that will really make a difference – here are some examples:
  • You can uniquely add value because of your position or expertise
  • They increase your capacity to generate ideas (e.g., studying)
  • They make your team more cohesive and effective (e.g., clarifying priorities, celebrating wins) 
  • They feed your energy (e.g., sleep, exercise)
Stimuli: Henry writes that the adage “you are what you eat” also applies to your mind. It’s important to make sure that the information you’re feeding your mind is high-quality – it should be challenging, relevant, and diverse.
Hours: Although time is the “currency of productivity,” not all hours are created equal. Building “idea time” into your schedule allows you to grow your capacity, generate ideas, and think strategically about problems instead of just reacting to them.
#2. To be more creative (and potentially change your life), exercise your "idea muscle."
Author and yoga instructor Claudia Altucher, writing in her book Become an Idea Machine, recommends a simple exercise to become more creative: write down 10 ideas every day. 
Just as you get stronger as you lift more weights over time, she suggests that after coming up with 10 ideas per day for 6 months, you’ll develop the “gift of trained spontaneity.”
The point of the exercise isn’t necessarily to develop a patent for the next world-changing technology. Instead, it’s to exercise your idea muscle and “make your brain sweat.”
As such, she writes that it’s OK even if the ideas are bad, and includes 180 prompts in the book to help you get started. Here are a few examples:
  • 10 titles of books that you could write
  • 10 ways that you could help a friend
  • 10 words that you can erase from your vocabulary
Altucher credits this exercise with giving her the confidence and creativity to transform her own life: from becoming a bestselling author, to creating The Yoga Podcast, as well as writing Become an Idea Machine, which she completed in 6 weeks.
#3. Use Ogilvy’s five-question checklist to identify a big idea in an advertising campaign.
Advertising legend David Ogilvy writes in his book Ogilvy on Advertising that you’ll never achieve fame and fortune in the industry unless you come up with big ideas.
It takes a big idea to attract customers and motivate them to buy your product, and without it your advertising “will pass like a ship in the night.”
Ogilvy points out that recognizing a big idea is “horribly difficult” (he admits to having at most 20 over his own distinguished career as a copywriter), but he recommends asking yourself the following 5 questions to increase your odds of success:
  1. Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
  2. Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
  3. Is it unique?
  4. Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
  5. Could it be used for 30 years?
Quote of the Week
“There’s an old saying in business: You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The same is true for ideas.”
- Author and entrepreneur Peter Diamandis in his book Bold
Idea Journal
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