Where Ideas Come From
One of the reasons for being accepted on the Kauffman Global Scholar program was for a business idea I had. Recently I have found that this idea may not be possible because it may have already been done before. Which puts me under a little pressure to have another great idea.
But where do they come from and what makes great ideas truly great?
I don't know if I have quite the ability to answer those 'profound' questions but I'll try to explain what I think is the best process to go about having ideas.
- There's no pressure
- Ideas don't (generally) come in a flash
- Capture it
- Sometimes ignorance is bliss
- Let it grow
- Constraints enhance creativity
There is no situation I know of where people perform better under stress. I can remember plenty of times when I certainly performed worse because of stress. It's exactly the same with ideas. Let your mind wander around onto whatever it chooses.
Ideas don't come in a flash
The best idea I have had was conceived over a few years, piecing together different parts of it sporadically when my mind came back to it. Often just one idea by itself won't solve the whole problem and may be pointless.
When an idea, or a piece of an idea arrives in my mind, its best to capture it. How many odd thoughts do you have over the course of a day? Can you remember any of them now? How many have you forgotten? It's the same with ideas, your brain is good at generating them but not retaining them. Find some sort of capture device: paper by the bed, a notebook in the back pocket, a mental association to remember it later or try a mindmap. Later write up your idea in an 'Inventor's Logbook'.
Sometimes Ignorance Is Bliss
Often what are perceived as the 'really hard problems' are left unsolved because an expert has decided that its too hard to solve. This expert has essentially denied anyone the ability to solve the problem. However looking at the problem without being trapped in the expert's mind frame allows creativity which would not otherwise be possible. The bottom line is have a healthy disregard for the impossible, but don't be detached from reality.
Let it Grow
This relates to my second point: ideas don't come in a flash. Don't let an idea escape you just because you currently think it has no use, doesn't quite work or is stupid. Capture it, and then carry on. Sometimes what you write down and capture will be stupid, not quite work or have no use, and thats okay. However other ideas with a little time may turn out to be brilliant. The same idea may solve a totally different application perfectly, or with an extra tweak may provide a factor of 10 improvement on whats available today.
Constraints Enhance Creativity
Maybe somewhat opposite to the first point: 'There's no pressure'. In the right, stress free, environment constraints will multiply creativity exponentially. It forces the brain to examine many different alternatives, often improving elements of the idea which were overlooked and had nothing to do with the constraint.
Hopefully you can offer some great examples of any of these points, or more tips.