This post is all about idea generation.
It’s about how you can be more creative and come up with more ideas for new articles, new products, and even new businesses.
Interestingly, I had already drafted this post when I received this question from a blog subscriber:
You recently emailed me asking for your subscribers to choose a topic for you to write a blog post on.
You provided a list of topics which were very interesting.
I was just wondering how you come up with such a varied list of topics.
If you’ve had a similar question, then you’ll want to read the three tips for idea generation that follow.
Idea Generation Tip #1: Stuff Your Mind with Facts and Information
Ben Settle offers this suggestion for coming up with unlimited ideas…
KEEP stuffing your mind with other facts and info.
Things unrelated to your business.
As the great copywriter Gene Schwartz taught, you keep feeding your mind with anything that will stick.
Then what happens?
All that info mixes in your mind.
Ideas pop out of nowhere.
And you start writing about things nobody else has even thought of before, making you an original voice that demands to be heard.
Ben’s suggestion is great for improving your lateral thinking abilities.
Lateral thinking is the ability to take two different unrelated pieces of information and combine them into something new.
Too many business people read only about business and develop a strange form of myopia. You want to expose yourself to things that are far afield from your business so your mind can go to work on how to apply that information in a business context.
The co-founder of KAYAK, Paul English, is also a fan of “information diversity”:
I read for an hour every night before going to bed. I love reading books by Indian authors. I’ll also read books about global health and Africa, as well as a murder mystery now and then. But I don’t like business books. There are so many things in life that are more interesting than business. (Inc., Feb 2010, p. 101)
Idea Generation Tip #2: Do Interesting Things
Ian Brodie makes this suggestion if you need ideas for interesting things to write about…
Let me introduce you to Dave Gorman.
Dave’s a comedian based here in the UK. He started his career fairly gently by writing for established acts, and his first show at the Edinburgh Fringe “Reasons to be Cheerful” was based on an analysis of whether the items mentioned in the Ian Dury song “Reasons to be Cheerful #3″ actually were reasons to be cheerful.
So far, so not very much.
But then Gorman hit on a brilliant idea which would propel him towards 4 bestselling books, sellout live shows and his own TV series.
And it’s one we can all use ourselves.
The simple idea was that instead of trying to think of interesting things to write about for his act, he would do interesting things – and then write about those.
It turns out that people are far more interested in the weird or exciting things you’ve done than in the weird or exciting things you’ve just thought about.
This bit of advice resonated with me. When I took my family down to Florida and lived on a beach for a month this last year, it gave me plenty to write about. (For example, see “How I Managed to Spend a Month on the White Sand Beaches of Florida” and “Lessons I Learned While Running My Business from a Florida Beach.”)
What’s more, author A.J. Jacobs has made an entire book-writing career just by doing interesting things and then writing about them.
You may have seen his books The Know-It-All (in which he attempts to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica) and The Year of Living Biblically (in which he attempts to follow the Old Testament laws for an entire year).
Idea Generation Tip #3: Break Your Everyday Routine
Last but not least, I suggest that you read, think, and act differently than you normally do…
Creativity can only flourish when you are reading, thinking, and acting differently than you and other people normally do.
Creative action leads to creative thought.
This why it helps to get out of your routine every now and then.
Drive a different way. Do things in reverse. Read books outside of what you’d normally read.
Investigate a new hobby. Go somewhere you’ve never gone. Do something you’ve never done.
By breaking your routine and doing things that may even be uncomfortable for you, you’ll cause your brain to think in new ways. You’ll have new thoughts.
And perhaps you can incorporate some of those new thoughts and ideas into your own business. Perhaps you’ll have a breakthrough.
Act on these three suggestions and I bet idea generation will become much easier for you. You may even discover that you have so many ideas that it would be impossible to act on all of them.
-Ryan M. Healy
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