Brainstorm. Idea shower. Ideation workshop. Innovation station. The business world is never short of coming up with new ways to describe the process of coming up with a good idea. While you might not care for the jargon (we don’t either), there’s no denying that good businesses thrive on good ideas. In fact most businesses were probably born following a good idea.
So it’s ironic that of all the tasks in the in-tray competing for our attention, we probably spend the least amount of time focusing on coming up with the next good idea whether it’s a new product, a new service, or just a more creative way of marketing and supplying what we already do. Somehow the day-to-day demands of running a business just get in the way.
Divergent versus convergent
Apparently it’s the conflict between our divergent thinking and convergent thinking that’s to blame says a piece in the Daily Muse. Divergent thinking is brainstorm mode, when all sorts of possibilities come into our minds. Unfortunately these thoughts are often hampered by our convergent thinking which is more concerned with the practicalities of day-to-day life and getting that in-tray sorted.
So how do we let our divergent thoughts run free and put idea generation back at the heart what we do?
Perhaps the worst idea is to simply put some time in everyone’s diary and announce you’ll be getting together for a brainstorm. According to entrepreneur.com, this is the biggest mistake many small businesses make and it serves only to stifle the creative process. That’s not to say getting together is a bad idea but rather it advises the group should not meet until everyone has independently come up with their own ideas and they have independently reviewed each other’s.
Holding a group session is all very well, but what about the freelancer or consultant who has no team to fall back on. The good news is, no one ever said you have to have a roomful of employees to successfully brainstorm.
Here are some top tips to get the creative juices flowing:
- Put aside 15 minutes a day and step away from your desk – get some exercise, play an instrument, in fact anything that disengages you from ‘work’ – it creates a much better environment for those divergent thoughts to run free
- You’re at your most creative early on in the day, so plan your day to be creative in the morning and more task focused later on
- Phone a friend, family member or fellow freelancer and run a problem past them
- Brainstorm online – there are some interesting brainstorm apps out there to help you unlock those ideas.
You don’t have to split the atom
The other point to remember is that good ideas don’t have to split the atom. They can be just a tweak or a small innovation to something you already do which can make an enormous difference. Don’t be afraid either to borrow other people’s inspiration – it was Einstein after all who once said, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Great ideas are rarely new, they’re just repackaged better.