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Some Ideas on How to Generate Ideas Published: Sunday, December 2, 2001 By: Eng. Ulises Pabón Marrero

I’ve been frequently asked: “Isn’t creativity a matter of inspiration? Isn’t it a contradiction to try to force creativity?” At first glance, trying to “operationalize” the creative process might seem as a contradiction. However, once we understand how a new idea is formed, we acknowledge the fact that there are things we can do to promote the creative process. Hence, we free ourselves from exclusive dependency on spontaneous inspiration.

Creativity is the connection of ideas, concepts, experiences or frames of reference that were previously disconnected. Although there is no sure recipe for that will guarantee a creative connection, we can promote and accelerate this process using various techniques. Let’s review some examples…

  1. Experiment with a new idea every day. The easiest way to do this is to write down the description of a problem or an opportunity on the top of a blank sheet of paper and force yourself to write down 20 ideas that can contribute to the issue at hand. Once the list is complete, select one idea from the list and experiment with it that day. In a world where people hardly ever move out of their comfort zone, experimenting with one new idea every day will definitely give you a competitive advantage. At the end of a year, you would have experimented with over 250 new ideas. Think about the impact this behavior will have in your work and in your life! 
  2. Have lunch with different people and use the time to talk about different problems or opportunities you are facing. Don’t try to be critical with the ideas the other person brings to the table. Leave judgment for a later stage. You are looking for new perspectives and new angles. By increasing your inventory of perspectives, you are increasing the probability of creative connections. 
  3. Read, read, read. Read about topics you rarely read about. Read articles on topics not related to your field of interest. Read magazines targeted to market niches you do not operate in. Read about creativity and innovation. The idea is to stimulate your mind with seeds and provocations outside your area of expertise. 
  4. Replace negative thinking with possibilities thinking. Before rejecting an idea, force yourself to identify three positive elements of the idea. Use the idea as a brainteaser to move to another idea. Think about impossible or outrageous goals and objectives. Assume for a second that they can be accomplished. How would you accomplish them? As you search for answers, give yourself permission to break the rules, cheat, “color outside of the lines”, and experiment.

Some measures that can be used at work include:

  1. Have people work in a different area or department for one day. At the end of the day, ask these “visitors” what they would do different if they were to work full time in the assigned area. Explore the possibility of implementing some of their suggestions. 
  2. Provide a place where people can go to think creatively about a problem. Fit the area with books, magazines, videos, flipcharts, and other objects that will stimulate their creative thinking. Plan time into the work schedule so that people can use this resource. 
  3. Hold internal conferences and conventions. Hold conventions where all the employees of the firm can participate. Activities can include: project presentations, employee led seminars, kiosks where products are presented, service department kiosks, and round table discussions. 
  4. Educate your people in creativity and innovation. Promote the use of the tools and techniques. Expand people’s “toolbox” by helping them learn innovation methodologies. 
  5. Incorporate the “Edison Factor”; allow people to fail. Eliminate the “witch hunts”. Learn to ask: “What did we learned from this result?” Reward people who take risks. Promote a mentality of “If it Ain’t Broke, Break It!” 
  6. Institute a research and continuous learning culture. Reward those that are continuously increasing their knowledge and that generate new knowledge. Promote collaboration and interchange as a means of putting new knowledge to work. Pitch in, if possible, on helping advance the education of your employees. 
  7. Multiply the avenues of information and allow it to be accessible. Information is the blood of an organization. Allow it to flow freely. Systems do not change without information.

I once heard that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. Some people will opt for inspiration to do “its thing”. For those who rather prefer a proactive approach, I invite you to experiment with these measures. You will be surprised of the impact they will have in your personal and professional life.


Copyright 2001 QBS, Inc.
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