How To Get Better at Thinking Up More Ideas



“Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” — Dr. Seuss

Creative thinking is a skill and you can learn it.  You can think up more ideas and better ideas if you practice.

You just need to know how to practice generating ideas.

I’m going to share two techniques that might be your most amazing game changers in your weekly work.

  1. Thomas Edison’s Idea Quota.
  2. Earl Nightingale’s Morning Routine

The two approaches work together and can help you innovate in your personal processes or innovate in your outcomes and products.

Generating Ideas will Generate More Insight

Innovation is the name of the game, and if you know how to play, it’s easy to win.  All innovation starts with insight.

Insight is the fodder of ideas and the building block of innovation.

Simply practicing generating ideas will help you generate more insight.  You will start to connect more dots and you will start to see relationships across things, or see things in ways you never saw before.

Thomas Edison’s Idea Quota

I first read this idea in Michael Michalco’s ThinkerToys book.  Michael Michalco was a Disney Imagineer and ThinkerToys his collection of patterns and practices for innovation and creative thinking.

The idea is simply to set a goal for ideas for the week—this is your Idea Quota

Simply set a goal of 5, 10, 15, or 20 ideas for the week and start writing your ideas down.

What I did was carry around a yellow sticky pad to jot my ideas down.

The first week I end up with maybe about 10 or so pretty good ideas (one idea per sticky note.)  The surprise is that by writing my ideas down, I freed up my mind – I created more whitespace.  No longer were those 10 ideas bouncing around in my head, instead I had room to dream up more.

By the end of the second week I had filled a sticky pad with ideas, and by the end of the third week I had gone through another two sticky pads.  Suddenly, with this extra whitespace in my mind, my creativity was on fire.

If I remember correctly, this was also about the time when I created 8 patents in two months around information models for improving software security and performance.

Earl Nightingale’s Exercise Your Mind for an Hour a Day

Earl Nightingale recommended exercising your mind an hour a day, before you start your day, five days a week.

Just sit down, use a sheet of paper, write your big goal at the top, and write 20 ideas below it.

Focus on how you can improve how your work gets done or how to change your work altogether to create and capture new value.

By focusing your mind on this challenge, your brain will quickly become more resourceful.

Most of the ideas won’t work, but all you need is a gem or two that will work for you.

The beauty is this effectively adds 6.5 work weeks to your year, which will put you ahead of your competition – and amplify it with your personal innovation.

So when I find my head is brain jammed and I’m not flowing ideas and innovation in my process or in my products fast enough or simply enough or fluid enough, I go back to the basics and hack Edison and Earl style again.

Practice your art of possibility.

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