One Simple Way to Get a Good Idea

by Henrik Edberg

There seems to be a common myth that one day you’ll just sit under a tree and get a good idea (possibly whilst getting hit in the noggin by an apple).

A more common – but less sexy or made for great anecdotes kind of – way to get a good idea is a bit different.

Let´s take the idea-machine and inventor Thomas Edison for example. By his death in 1931 Edison had gathered over a 1000 patents. Sure, today we may not remember many of them but among were also a handful of world-changing ideas such as the light bulb, the phonograph (for listening to music) and the Kinetoscope (for watching movies).

Point being: To get a good idea, get lots of ideas.

For instance, when I’m running low on subjects to blog about I sit down and take out a piece of paper. I pick up my pen, brainstorm and try to come up with 20 new ideas for articles. Then I try for 10 more. This might take a while, especially at the end when obvious ideas and variations of them starts to dry up. But when I finally have them, then I’ll have enough.

Some of these ideas will suck, many ideas will overlap and can be integrated into one article. A few of the ideas may even be quite good.

An excellent variation of this method comes from Earl Nightingale’s “Lead the Field”:

Use the pen and a piece of paper try to come up with 20 ideas to improve something. This something can be you business, health, the amount of money you earn, your life in general or just another idea that you want to improve. Several times after I´ve done this exercise I´ve been quite pleasantly surprised with some of the suggestions I´ve written down and thought to myself: Why haven´t I thought of that earlier?

The interesting thing about sitting down and starting to consciously generating ideas is that once you get them to start trickling into your mind they often develop into a small stream or sometimes even a river. Before you begin it may seem difficult to gather 20 or 40 new ideas but soon after you get started it seems, at least for a while, like you’re plucking them out of the air as easy as picking a basket of apples.

Edison, who used to retreat to his basement and there – without the disturbance of sight or sound – simply received ideas, had this to say:

“Ideas come from space. This may seem astonishing and impossible to believe, but it’s true. Ideas come from out of space.”

A thought that that seems to fit into the theory, supported many personal growth writers like Napoleon Hill and Brian Tracy, about an infinite intelligence that you can tap into to get ideas and solutions to your problems.

To get the flow of ideas going I have found it important to relax the mind. If you strain and try to force the ideas out they won’t come. Just relax and let them flow. Half of them might be unusable but don’t think or worry about that because then you’ll put a stop to the stream of ideas. Just write it all down and later you can proceed to delete, keep or merge your ideas.



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{ 11 comments }

Douwe van der Werf March 11, 2007 at 4:33 pm

It’s true: good ideas cannot be forced. I sometimes have trouble with overly enthusiastic producers, that try to ‘speed up’ a brainstorm, because they want to finish things a week before the deadline.

I’ve learned that speeding it up (whether alone or in a group) doesn’t result in a better creative process and better ideas. Relaxing it down is key.

Token March 11, 2007 at 5:17 pm

Hi!

I just wanted to share my experience on getting good ideas. You are right saying that to get a really good idea you should relax. In my situation, many of good ideas usually come to me when I’m having a nap. I don’t sleep in the full meaning of this word, but still have some dreams in my head. And that’s the time when an idea may appear. :)

PS: But first, before having a nap, you should think a little and try to get some ideas conciously. That will help you to force your mind generate thoughts regarding the problem you want to get idea on. ;)

Inspired March 12, 2007 at 5:45 am

Getting great ideas is difficult if one intends to DISCOVER it.
You could be famous overnight but I prefer other methods of getting ideas.

It’s either RE-ARRANGE old things into something totally new or just MODIFY (make it smaller, bigger, cut one part, add another etc.) it into a more improved version.

I usually look at other successful sites/business/blog post and begin thinking these ways.

The spark usually comes quicker.

Laura March 12, 2007 at 7:54 am

Thanks for your useful and insightful blog!

I agree that great ideas generally don’t fall out of trees and hit you on the head! I find that sitting down and writing a few ideas is the way to start. Next, take each word and think of all the words, associations and concepts that relate to it. Like you said, it doesn’t matter how silly or obscure they are- just get the creative juices flowing.

I’m often amazed by how one word can develop into so many diverse subjects and ideas.

Henrik Edberg March 13, 2007 at 12:36 am

Douwe: Yep, relaxing is important here, and a bit counter-intuitive.

Token: Thanks for sharing. I´ve experienced that too. I always have a pen and a notepad on the table beside my bed.

Inspired: That´s an great way of developing new ideas. Thanks for that one.

Laura: That´s an excellent way to get new ideas too. It´s important to let your mind just roam free for a bit and see what happens. As you as, you can often become amazed at the results.

viji March 19, 2007 at 9:53 am

Hi Henrik came from Aaron’s blog. You have quite interesting blog. This one is a nice post and enjoyed reading it, as i do the same, put everything in paper and shape it. One more thing, i get ideas from other’s experience also. Have a good day. Viji

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pyrethrum September 20, 2007 at 7:13 am

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Akbar Jaffari March 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

thank you for your good article

Perl June 16, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Good experience. Excellent idea comes from many ideas.

kashif October 2, 2008 at 10:32 am

it is good way the add on point is that if u just one thing u get ideas even in sleep,bathroom,eating or any time….

so keep ideating and deliver innovations

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