It has been said many times before, but to have a good idea, you have to have a lot of ideas. But how do you do that? Here’s a fun way to go about it:
Empathise – Get inside the head and the life of somebody with a problem to solve. Feel their frustrations and difficulties. Try to understand what they, in essence, want to achieve. Be with people. Love people. Try to make their lives easier or better.
Surmise – From incomplete information, take some educated guesses about what might solve the problem. Develop a mental model and see if you can extend it to solve all problems of the same class of problem. See if you can infer an answer from the problem.
Synthesise – Combine information, ideas and answers from many places and seemingly unrelated fields. See if you can find an analogous problem in another problem domain or field of study entirely and see what you can apply from that solution to the problem you are trying to solve. Is there any sort of symmetry or applicability?
Surprise – Try things that are completely random or off the wall. Play nonsense games. See if you can play with the idea and come up with something completely fresh, just by trying to amuse yourself with the funniness of your answer. Be unafraid and dare to suggest the seemingly ridiculous. Push the solution to the extreme limits and see if it still holds water. Often, the most absurd situation yields the most interesting solution.
Excise – Forget all about it for a few hours or days. Relax. Let the problem solve itself in your mind, without your active attention. Let it stew. Let it simmer. Let the idea have its own incubation time.
Theorise – See if you can construct a general framework of meaning within which your solution fits. Does it now show itself to be a solution to other problems? Does the particular solution apply in the general case? Can you stretch the solution to solve other things?
Apprise – Tell somebody. Don’t be afraid of losing control of your idea. People have lots of their own ideas. You might not have the time, inclination and energy to make this idea real anyway. You will certainly have more great ideas. See if you can get feedback about your idea and constructive contributions from others. If your idea is any good, you’ll have to shove it down people’s throats anyway. See if you can get anybody else interested in your idea.
Realise – Ideas are very fragile if they are not made concrete. Prototype. Make a model. Try out the concepts. See if you can make a rudimentary first version. Give people something to touch, feel, see, understand and critique. Create the proof that your idea will actually work.
Exercise – Try the idea out. Let other people mess with it. See if it stands up to the real world. Make improvements every time it fails. See if you can add resilience to brilliance.
Devise – Think about how to bring your idea into the world and how it might best be shown to those that might benefit. Work out a strategy for introducing it and spreading the word about it.
Sunrise – Start something. Propel your idea into the world through some kind of enterprise, whether that be a traditional corporate entity, a collective or a co-operative. Incubate the idea and make it hatch. Let the idea see its first glorious dawn.
Franchise – Try to get other people to put their entrepreneurial skills and investment behind your idea. See if you can make it into a business for everybody. Try it out over a wider territory by letting others run with the idea. Many hands make light work, but many minds make brighter work. (Artists please note – you don’t have to go commercial with your idea, but it helps you eat).
Monetise – If you can earn a living from your idea, so much the better. That will take care of your material needs, so that you can dream new dreams and think more beautiful thoughts. Nothing stifles creativity and innovation as much as worrying about how you are going to make ends meet, and pay the bills. It eats brain space and is just the sort of distraction you don’t need.
Revise – After some time, take another look at your idea. With what you have learned since it existed, can it be improved? Does it have other obvious applications now that were not initially obvious? Has the world taught you what to do with your idea? Were you paying attention to what worked badly and what worked well? Can you do more of the latter with your idea?
Reprise – Start at the very beginning and do it all again. One good idea should not be the sum total of your life’s work. Neither should two. If you have gone to all the trouble to get good at having ideas and you know how to have a lot of good ideas, you really need to make sure you do this as a habit, serially. Why stop now?
OK, OK, I can even now hear the sceptics thinking, “Lies!”
Hopefully, for every person that thinks that, somebody else rubs their chin and remarks , “Wise”. 🙂