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Where Do Great Ideas Come From?

Do you ever catch yourself asking someone “How did you think of that?” We all have. It is always a great question because it helps you understand how people think – if they answer it honestly. Although, most of the time the answer is “it just came to me.”lightbulb

So how did they think of that great idea? I have gathered 5 eye-opening points that have helped me stay creative over the years.

  1. Diversify yourself. Step outside of your comfort zone. If you only watch sports, try watching a chick flick. If you go home every day after work, take up a hobby or two. If you make a ham sandwich for lunch everyday, go out. You get the idea. The key is that you need to keep yourself diversified. Try as many different things as you can. Take beer for example. You like to enjoy an ice-cold beer on a Friday night, right? You have choices. Instead of going home and pulling another cold one from the fridge you could go to the corner brewery. You could also dress up a little and go to Cliff Bell’s and listen to some great jazz while enjoying that brew or an old-fashioned. When you diversify yourself you open your eyes to things you may not normally think of or pay attention to. Anything can spark an idea. If you do the same things every day you are stuck in one target market that you may never be trying to appeal to. In turn, the ideas that you come up with may only appeal to your specific market and not necessarily the target market you are shooting for.
  2. Go outside. When is the last time you took a walk around the block or a bike ride? It seems really simple but it opens your mind. Just sitting at your desk does not always cut it. Sights, sounds, textures, and the like spark things in your mind. Have you ever heard of the American Family Life Assurance Company? Not unless I said AFLAC. In one of my graduate branding courses we learned the story of the AFLAC duck. How did they come up with that idea? The creatives at Kaplan Thaler went to lunch in an outdoor patio. They saw a duck. They kept repeating the word AFLAC. It started to sound like a duck. The rest is history. After they spent countless hours of brainstorming, all it took was them to take a walk outside and go to lunch. Go outside.
  3. Research other industries.  If you are in automotive do not just look for other ideas in the automotive circles. Look at the ideas that are being developed in other industries and see how it can relate your own. I am by no means telling you to steal someone’s idea. What I am telling you is to see how you can learn from it and potentially apply it to something else. You can always learn from others. The day you stop learning is the day you have failed yourself.
  4. Keep notes. I have probably lost more good ideas than I could ever remember. The problem is that I did not write them down. Type it, write it, scribble it, draw it, whatever works. Just get it down on paper. Even though the idea may not be the best idea now it may spark something else or you may see it in a different light later.  A good friend of mine was stuck in traffic a couple of months ago and out of nowhere came up with one of the best ideas I have heard in quite a while, a real game changer. By the time he was out of the backup he had already written down page after page of notes in an old notebook he kept for that very purpose. Don’t let the ideas slip away.
  5. Listen. Whether it is a story, a newscast,  or your spouse, yes your spouse, listen. I like to bounce ideas off my friends too. Listen to what they have to say. There is always something that you may not have thought of or an angle you have never ventured toward before. Everyone’s mind works differently. Listening is what helps fine tune your idea from what would be very good to something remarkable.

Reflect on these points from time to time. Stay hungry. Keep your mind sharp. That next great idea is just around the corner. What else do you do to keep your creative side fulfilled?

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