5 Tips for Exciting Ideas: How to generate ideas for your future direction

Curiosities can help to identify new directions to head in; the ability to generate new ideas helps you create new opportunities and options for yourself along the way. Curiosities and ideas are the thread between creativity and new possibilities for yourself.

Discover five tips to help you generate exciting new ideas for yourself and your future direction…

It’s easy to say “I’m just not an ideas person,” but we won’t let you off the hook so easily. You have the power to generate exciting new ideas. Although you might need to start by strengthening your own “idea muscle”.

Here are five tips to help you generate exciting new ideas for yourself and your future direction.

1) Strengthen Your “Idea Muscle” to Become an Idea Machine

James Altucher has a simple daily practice: every day he picks a topic and generates 10 new ideas around that topic. The quality of the ideas matter little. Most will probably be rubbish. He may not execute on the ideas or do anything tangible with them. That’s beside the point. His goal is to make his brain sweat and work out what he calls his “idea muscle.”

Like any muscle, your “idea muscle” is one that can atrophy over time. It’s easy to think you’re not creative or that you don’t have any new ideas or you’ve run out of fresh ones. It could be that your idea muscle needs to be reengaged and strengthened.

To dig deeper, here are a couple of Altucher’s most popular articles on the topic:

2) Aim for Quantity over Quality.

“The odds of producing an influential or successful idea is a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.” – Adam Grant.

Altucher’s 10 Ideas a Day also demonstrates another point: strive for quantity of ideas over quality of a limited few ideas.

A good example from the book Art & Fear tells the story of a ceramics teacher who graded half of his class on quantity (how many pieces they could make) and the other half on quality (create only one piece but make sure it’s perfect):

“Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.”

It’s discouraging to come up with ideas knowing that most of them won’t be any good. But it’s encouraging to know that the more ideas you generate, a better shot you have at coming up with great ideas.

3) Think “Blue Sky” and Remain Judgement-Free

Disney’s Imagineering Department is responsible for coming up with new experiences for its theme parks and has an idea generation process that encourages a judgement-free atmosphere.

It all starts with “Blue Sky” brainstorming:

“Blue Sky: The early stages in the idea-generation process when anything is possible. There are not yet any considerations taken into account that might rein in the creative process. At this point, the sky’s the limit!”

According to The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland, the Imagineering department’s brainstorming rules are:

  • There is no such thing as a bad idea. We never know how one idea (however far-fetched) might lead into another one that is exactly right.
  • We don’t talk yet about why not. There will be plenty of time for realities later, so we don’t want them to get in the way of the good ideas now.
  • Nothing should stifle the flow of ideas. No “buts” or “can not’s” or other “stopping” words. We want to hear words such as “and,” “or” and “what if?”
  • There is no such thing as a bad idea. (We take that one very seriously.)

We must start broad and wide before we turn narrow and constrictive. Begin with Blue Sky. If you start shooting down the ideas before they even come out of you, you’re already constricting yourself to what’s possible.

4) Be Generous with your Ideas.

There’s a common misconception about ideas: that you should hold onto them tightly and keep them to yourself. People get protective of their ideas. But not sharing (or even not giving away) ideas is a good way to kill or suffocate your ideas.

This is addressed early in the Escape Startup Accelerator: your ideas need to be aired out in the open. They need oxygen to grow. Your idea is more fertile in the world. The power of ideas, of course, extends far beyond just being able to come up with them.

In his book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson echoes the importance of sharing and connecting ideas with others:

“If there is a single maxim that runs through this book’s arguments, it is that we are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them.”

Ideas do no good just sitting in your own head. We must set them on fire and release them into the world. Act on them yourself, freely discuss them with others, and even give them away.

5) Don’t wait for new ideas to arrive.

“If there is any lesson I’ve learned it’s that lightning bolts don’t hit very often…it is a process and if you don’t understand that and if you sit around and wait for the lightning bolt, you’re not going to be very productive.” –Peter Rummell, former chairman of Disney’s Imagineering department.

Remember that the magic in any creative work isn’t waiting for inspiration to strike. It’s about showing up, having a discipline of doing your work constantly and opening the door for inspiration to show up. The same goes for your ideas and your own Escape.

Stretch yourself to think of new ideas and options. Try James Altucher’s 10 Ideas a Day and make your brain sweat. Establish a discipline of frequently coming up with fresh solutions to old problems, if only just for fun. New ideas come as your “idea muscle” gets stronger.

In conclusion: Your curiosities and ideas matter.

Trust in your curiosities and actually let them pull you, even when your chimp brain and your fears rear their ugly heads to try and stop you. By being patient with your curiosities, not expecting them to lead you to immediate gratification, and being freewheeling and generous with your ideas, you will create exciting new possibilities and opportunities for yourself.

Both curiosities and ideas come from a well that has the potential to be abundant and overflowing. Maybe not at first, but once you get better at listening to your curiosities (artist dates!) and strengthening your idea muscle (10 ideas a day!) you’ll be well on your way to think and dream big.

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