To Be Creative, Use This Idea Generation Process

Steps to developing amazing ideas

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Too often, we limit ideas from coming to fruition. Ideas that have potential. We think it’s not good enough. It doesn’t meet our standards.

What we fail to realize is as I’ve already introduced, great ideas are not just created in one day. Ed Catmull’s Creativty Inc, puts it best: ideas require space. They’re like an ugly baby. They require space to develop and grow. But if you give the idea that, the idea can take you to magical places. Basically, giving an idea space allows you to come up with things you never would have and can lead to some great work.

Now, the question becomes how do you practically implement this?

  1. Well to start out, you can’t put a filter on your ideas.

If you put a filter and say “this idea isn’t good” or “this idea doesn’t make sense” too early, you’ll be left with cliche ideas if anything at all.

When you’re generating ideas, whether you constrain that time to 5 minutes or not at all, write it down. There is no harm in writing them down. But writing them down allows for your brain to riff off certain things it never would have and allows for the unusual to emerge

2. Remove the cliche ideas, unless…

There are certain ideas that are almost prohibited. Other than the ones that don’t make sense, it’s the ideas that are cliche. As a consumer myself, I can say regarding the self-help space, I’m constantly looking for something new. I don’t want to see 10 of the same articles on why cold showers are helpful.

So, if you see a cliche idea, don’t engage with it. Yes, still write it down. But whenever you choose to pause from the brainstorming period, cross them out. Cliche ideas, while they can be well executed, are never the foundation for exceptional content.

However, there is one exception. In the case of fiction, certain tropes (ex: the misunderstood villain, love triangle, charming protagonist) are okay on one condition: You make them your own.

If you decide to have something cliche in your article, it has to come from your own voice. Otherwise, it won’t sound good. But if you can create your personal twist or add some perspective to it, things get interesting. Then, you’ve done something that most people haven’t.

Cliches are typically created out of an over-met need. In other words, there was/is a need that’s present, but it has been addressed way too much. Adding your own spin allows you to avoid that because you create a new submarket in a way. You go above and beyond with a unique product, breaking the status quo and adding style.

3. Dig deeper

Typically, most ideas tend to be surface-level. They have intrigue and we think they’re fascinating, but they lack depth.

So, one must dig deeper in the very typical, but successful way: ask questions. One has to especially ask, “why?”

“Why does this idea matter?” “Why would I make this choice?” “What does this mean?”

Most ideas are boring unless they contain nuance and depth. The only way to do that is to acquire a better understanding. And what better way to do that than to just ask.

4. Criticize your ideas, but not in the way you think

I found myself in a discussion recently about one of the ideas I had for an article. I wanted to get their thoughts so I gave a quick summary along with a basic outline to see what they would say.

Immediately, I started receiving all types of feedback from all over the place. “That’s too complex.” “This doesn’t make any sense.” “What are you trying to say here?”

There are two ways you can take this. You can think that because there’s so much criticism available, the idea must suck. That the idea has way too many flaws and there’s no point trying to fix it.

Or, you can realize that ideas need space and that you need to let them grow. See the criticism as discussion, but to improve the work. That should be the goal of criticism. Once you allow for that, you allow for a healthier version of criticism. One that can validate ideas and improve them.

From there, once you have ideas, the next step for some may be to go back to the drawing board. The board never stops. But for others, it’s time to execute the ideas they’ve generated. But you know have an environment where creativity has no filter. Where all sorts of unique things can come in. And what better environment than that?

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Nathan M

Nathan M

Taking from my experience, I write about productivity, enjoying life a bit more, and being a slightly less annoying human.