I have had some good ideas over my lifetime, if I do say so myself. However, I have had some catastrophically bad ones as well.
Like my marble insurance business in grade four. I even created a motto: “When you lose all your marbles, that’s where we come in.” Sadly, I was working with a limited demographic in my rural elementary school, so the business never got the wings it really needed.
But I didn’t let that get me down!
My next great idea was in grade five, where I started babysitting at the age of 11. I was going to be the ultimate babysitter who made extensive plans of fabulous unique activities I could do. I had visions of long lists of clients waiting for me to accept their desperate offers for babysitting.
However, the caveat there was that I actually didn’t really enjoy kids that much. What started out as an idea of creating a child care empire became a dread of losing my free time to pursue other ideas I had due to running around after kids that threatened to kill each other with baseball bats when their parents weren’t home.
Then there was that change the world club idea I promoted in grade 7, my performance career that I began to develop in grade 9 and my singing/dancing environmental clean up crew I had inspired in grade 10.
You get the picture.
Eventually I happened upon this little idea that became a successful international charity and created other spin offs around it. The funny thing about the ideas that take off is that the world sees them and has no idea how many bad ones you had before the one that they all love.
When you have confidence around ideas, you gain a certain skill set that it hard to define. The ideas come about as fast as the music that gets churned out by a little monkey holding a music box in a traveling circus.
The concept of ideation has been in my DNA since the beginning and I never really questioned the mechanics of it for a long time.
But then I started to lead and mentor people and realized that this wasn’t the reality that many people lived in.
In fact, I discovered that there were crazy assumptions people told themselves around the availability of good ideas. They assumed that the disbursement of good ideas was more like a pie and less like a fountain.
The reasons we fall for for these assumptions could be varied:
- we had a bad experience with trying out an idea and it bombed
- we shared our ideas prematurely or incompletely with someone and they discouraged us around pursuing it
- fear of failure keeps us back from ever exploring ideas in the first place
- we are driven by comparisons and so we despise the small beginnings and tell ourselves, “go big or go home”
- we question whether our idea actually qualifies as a good one
- we think we don’t have enough time, money or energy to find good ideas
- or we have simply been told that we are not idea people
All of the above is horse crap.
Good ideas are everywhere. More importantly, they are inside of you.
Have you wondered where good ideas come from and how you can have more of them? Here are six things to consider:
1. Working out new ideas is a process.
In his book A Technique for Producing Ideas, James Webb Young explains that while the process for producing new ideas is simple enough to explain, “it actually requires the hardest kind of intellectual work to follow, so that not all who accept it use it.”
The author says that there are two principles to ideas:
1. An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements.
2. The capacity to bring old elements into new combinations depends largely on the ability to see relationships.
Look at the people and things around you. Chances are, there are relationships and combinations that are already present in what you are doing and what you are a part of. This could be a gold mine for a new idea.
Which leads us to…
2. You can train your brain to discover new ideas.
Sitting around and bemoaning the fact that you don’t have any good ideas won’t move the needle forward. Cultivate the welcome of new information into your life and act as your own curator.
Simply put, give your idea machine some food to get it going. Read, get curious, strike up conversations, observe what is going on. Most of all, do it with a genuine curiosity that with holds assumptions.
3. Set aside time and space to simply think.
Sure, ideas may come in the shower or on the toilet. However, chance are much more likely of you having a great idea when you simply show up in life and do the nurturing work of creating a welcome space for it – inside of you and in your world.
Some people use vision boards and index cards. Others use Evernote or other capturing software. Some of us just use plain old notebooks from Muji with our favourite fountain pen that Mr. Wonderful brought back from a trip. Whatever works for you, the point is to use it and have it accessible at all times.
We fall in love with our ideas easily. We can have so much faith in them that we don’t have the emotional distance to know when to hold them lightly. I love how Elizabeth Gilbert describes ideas as showing up and offering us the idea to say yes to them or to resolutely say no.
For me, this is the healthy way to look at ideas. Mine don’t stop and they can get very chattery inside my brain, so giving myself permission to embrace some and stop others in their tracks is very freeing.
5. Be willing to have a lot of bad ideas so that you can get to the good ones.
Get over yourself.
Flirt with the idea of starting a marble insurance business just because it would be fun to think about
I defer to Seth Godin, the idea Jedi, here:
Someone asked me where I get all my good ideas, explaining that it takes him a month or two to come up with one and I seem to have more than that. I asked him how many bad ideas he has every month. He paused and said, “none.”
There will always be more ideas – because we live in an ever expanding universe. The law of probabilities is on your side when you keep on nurturing your ability to let ideas flow.
6. Fear is a guarantee, so don’t fear the fear that comes with the “what if?” questions.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. Relax and simply fear not trying.
You are a fountain of ideas. Let’s crank that baby up and make a difference in the world