How To Generate More Ideas

Coming up with more ideas is the same as achieving many other things. In fact, many of the underlying techniques of how to come up with more ideas same the same principles of of other popular self-improvement topics:

  • how to build bigger muscles
  • how to find your perfect mate
  • how to make one million dollars
  • how to lose weight
  • how to get a raise

It all boils down to doing the “thing” more.

In building biceps, it’s doing more barbell curls. In finding your perfect mate, it’s going on more dates. For coming up with more ideas, it’s only about trying to come up with more ideas, more often. Just like your biceps, idea generation is a muscle.

No one that is “great at generating ideas” was born that way, they usually just tried coming up with ideas more often. The more you flex your idea generation muscle, the better you get.

And the fact is, the more ideas you take in, the more you’ll put out.

Every idea you see, hear, feel, taste, do, and touch all have impressions in your mind that can influence your ability to generate new ideas.  That being said, everything that exists was at one time an idea, so a simpler way to say it is, “experience more”.

Someone who has only ever eaten white rice will have a harder time coming up with a new flavor of ice cream than someone who has experienced every fruit in the world.

See, hear, feel, taste, do and touch more and you will be able to generate more.

The Power of Small Comments

People often ask me how I was able to make the first switch within my Company from one group to another.  I had been in the IT group for about eight years at that point and then switched over into our Consumer Products Marketing group. Up until that time, going from IT to the Marketing group was not common and there might have only been one other person to do it before me, even though many talked about it.

While I’m sure my amazing abilities and born greatness for marketing had everything to do with it (sarcasm), one of the main factors was actually much simpler.

Shortly after starting to be the IT relationship leader for the Marketing group that I would eventually join, I went to an after-work happy hour event with the Marketing team.  While I was there, one of the senior leaders in the Marketing group and I started talking. I mentioned to him that “I had always wanted to try a position in the Marketing group.”

A year later, that same person called me up, reminded me of our conversation at the bar, and asked if I wanted a Marketing role within his team.

Because of that, I always try to remember the power of small comments:

  • never underestimate the power of a random / inconsequential conversation.
  • always seize an out of office conversation opportunity.
  • realize that the comments I make may have power, even if not immediately.
  • understand that people do remember what you say.
  • remember to communicate and tell people things that I want to happen.

So what can you tell someone about today?

Are You Living What You Expect In An Interview?

What questions did you ask the last candidate you tried to hire? What expectations did you have about what they would bring to the table and the types of leadership and results you expected to see? What were the things that made you want to choose the person you actually hired?

Now ask yourself, are you performing at the level that you expect or hope for in your job candidates? Are you expecting something from a new hire that you aren’t even doing yourself?

No, I don’t mean the actual tasks that are being performed by that new person, because it doesn’t mean that you should just take on more tasks. Didn’t you focus on more than just task execution in your interview?

Maybe it’s time to interview yourself.

The Business Around The Business

When I was a kid I collected comic books.  There were some I read and some I collected just because I liked the artwork, but my main goal (along with a whole mess of other ventures in those days) was collecting them with the hope that one day they would be worth a ton of money.

After weekly shopping trips to the comic book store with my friends, I would carefully protect my comics with the special holders and backing boards. I’d also do things in support of my habit like get the updated pricing magazine that came out every few weeks to do a current evaluation of my collection.

That was well over twenty years ago.  Then, a few weeks ago I had the random thought that I would look up some of the prices of the comics I had to see what their current value would be if I went to sell them today. Needless to say, even though I had some pretty decent selections, I wouldn’t be a mega-millionaire if I went to sell them today.

Which got me thinking: where was the real money and value generated from collecting comic books, baseball cards, etc.?  

The real money was generated in supporting the collecting behavior.  If I spent more time finding ways to help my friends with their collections, I probably would have made much more than in actually collecting myself. All of those protective bags and backings, the storage boxes, and even the french fries and sodas my friends and I stopped for on the way home from the comic book store was the real way for someone to make money from our collecting. The four bucks per month, by every kid who collected comics, for the pricing guide was another secondary product (and industry) that sprung up around the collecting.

This is true in many places. Is more money generated from the actual stocks in the stock market or from the countless industries and offerings supporting people who want to buy and sell stocks?

What business could you develop supporting the perceived value of another business?

P.S. After lugging my comic book collection around in boxes between my first two apartments after college (yes, I kept them ‘in storage’ at my parent’s house through high school and college) I did decide to sell them on ebay.  Three quick thoughts:

  1. wow, ebay or the internet wasn’t even ‘a thing’ when I started collecting back in grade school
  2. I sold them in bulk as 1 whole set because I didn’t want to go through the detail of individual listings management and therefore had to knowingly sell them at a steep volume/non-individualized discount, and
  3. the real value in my whole experience with collecting comics came from the fun I had on those weekly shopping trips and the discovery of seeing what’s new at the store. Those memories are priceless and why I will highly recommend my kids start any kind of collecting of something they want.

Using Urgent for Urgent’s Sake

One particular summer Friday a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be working from a remote location at a beach town.  I wasn’t supposed to be working that day, but an “urgent” (in quotes because it was someone else’s definition of urgent) project meeting came up that was four hours long that I “had” to attend.  We were told to have the meeting urgently because it was described as a critical meeting to get something designed and moving that HAD to be completed immediately.

Beach towns aren’t always the greatest at WiFi connectivity (thankfully) so I had to ride my bike around town till I found a spot with internet connectivity. I sat on a rickety chair in the town library for the next five hours taking part in the meeting. Thankfully, because I was already at the beach, I could put the meeting out of my mind about ten minutes after it was over as next steps could wait till Monday.

Fast forward to that same weekend, one year later, and as I drove into that beach town again for the first time in the season I saw the library building and immediately had flash backs to that meeting–the meeting that had to get done on that particular day, because we had to get the project moving immediately.

Quickly my flash back turned into a great teaching moment as I realized that while it was now a year later, that particular project had still not started and was still having “urgent” meetings.

I just drove by that library again this season, and now every time I see it it becomes a great lesson in building trust with a team and how taking action to move a project forward is usually better than just talking about doing something.

Business Boot Camps

There are plenty of programs for students  to learn more about career choices and industries in their field (think internships and co-ops).  Why do businesses stop doing that for experienced people?

What if you could build a bootcamp / externship-type program for your business where you bring in talent from other industries to work in your space for a while?  What if you could even do this between the different groups within your company?

Do you think skills you have from working in one industry could be useful in another? There’s an easy way to find out once you find a company with this type of program embedded in the organization.

How else could you benefit from the knowledge someone else has in another field?

Online Learning Team Building Platform

I’ve been thinking about how to strengthen online teams… Many online courses require participants to form teams to complete some of the work. There are two ways to go about this:

  1. Create a team of people you already know
  2. Join a diverse team of strangers supplied by the platform

If you’re with your friends and colleagues, team building aspects may not be an issues. But if you’re on a new diverse team, you might benefit from some additional team building activities.

Instead of nesting team building activities into each separate online platform, why not build a platform that specializes in creating stronger bonds between online teams for the purposes of coursework? Then the teams could utilize this new team building platform for becoming a better team, and the learning platform can focus on being a better learning platform.

What would you do to help online teams get stronger?

 

Instant Meeting Feedback

Have you ever ran a half day, all day or multi-day meeting and wanted to get better live feedback about how it was going? Would you like to receive real time feedback about your performance, without disrupting whatever was happening?  What are some ways you could receive this type of instant feedback, and make it as simple and non-disruptive as possible?

What if…?

What if you handed everyone a red, yellow and green card at the start of the meeting and asked that at any point in time a participant would put one of the cards on the table to indicate their feelings.  What if everyone vote at every break?  What if it’s an app that people can click their feedback and it gets aggregated to a continuous monitor on your screen?

Incredibly simple ideas, but the start of what could be very powerful and even more elegant ideas to immediately improve your process and outcomes.

The main idea is that you should start to ask for more instant feedback.

 

Work Spas

I love going to spas.  No, not the kind that are advertised in the back of local newspapers, but the real kind that are luxurious retreats from the outside world.  Periodically being in a place that is specifically geared towards helping me relax and recharge while being extremely comfortable is as close to perfection as possible: fluffy robes, soft towels, salt rooms, wet and dry saunas, different temperature hot tubs that get hotter and hotter, cold plunge pools, lounge chairs, hot towels for your face, rainfall shower heads…

When you’re immersed in the spa those features may seem like they’re geared for your body, but it’s your mind that is getting a radical change of pace as well.

Imagine if you could use that different mindset for your work. How about integrating some elements of the spa into where and how you get work done?

Introducing the Work Spa.

Much of today’s most important work (if not all) involves creativity. The Work Spa is about being in an environment, periodically, that enhances your creativity while also being conducive to getting work done–if you want.

Could you be more effective immediately after a series of hot and cold plunges in the different pools?  Would you stimulate a latent part of your brain and be able to better solve problems because you’ve never tried to find a solution while you’re sitting around in a robe and towel surrounded by eucalyptus steam?

There are plenty of movies where the two power brokers in some financial transaction go into a steam room, so let’s take that idea to the current times.

A simple start would be putting wi-fi and laptop lockers in existing spas and having a section where the keyboard clicking wouldn’t interfere with the silent portion.  What else would your ideal work spa have?

 

The “Why Am I Here” Score

I looked up the websites of 75 different organizations in a particular industry for a small project. My goal was to look at the sites so I could figure out which of 6 or so different buckets that each of the organizations fell into. This would help me develop a plan to research the right ones more effectively.

Unfortunately, 65 of the 75 websites I went to did absolutely nothing in the first 2 clicks (I left each one after two clicks) to tell me

  1. what the organization offered
  2. identify any nugget of information that could help me categorize them effectively or
  3. help me understand how that organization made money (they were all for-profit ventures)

Bloated, confusing, jargon-filled mission statements and copywriting on the main pages of a company’s site do nothing to help the new visitor understand anything about the company or what to do next.

So, how about developing a way to quickly asses website (or other media) designs in terms of the consumer/customer/visitor and figuring out why they happens to be on the site in the first place? 

One simple way this could be evaluated is by whether or not someone knows what to do once they land on your homepage. There’s a ton more, but the overall message is to come up with some kind of generic benchmark (like CTR is a generic benchmark) that helps designers understand if they’re confusing the visitor.

How else could we measure this?