Be curious, the art of never having an original idea.
I had just been invited to the new Clubhouse app, it’s a sort of vocal forum, full of groups chatting about any number of subjects. Looking around the app I noticed a large group that was talking about the Clubhouse app itself. Part of the tagline was “Mark Zuckerberg is on Clubhouse!”. So I took the bait and jumped into the room.
Zuckerberg wasn’t there anymore but the conversation was still going on. Apparently, this group had been going strong since the night before and had become something of a round table with people taking turns acting as the hosts. The talks were mostly centering around the Clubhouse concept and how it will evolve and monetize itself.
I was about to leave the group when I heard a voice I recognized, not someone I knew personally but from TV. I quickly scanned the avatars in the group and found what I was looking for, a little gray ring around the avatar and indicates who’s speaking and it was around Barbra Corcoran from the Shark Tank. About that time someone asked her a question.
“How do you keep getting fresh ideas?”
Barbra chuckled a little and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever had an original idea before, but I’m curious.”
Your Crayon Box
She went on to explain.
“I collect creative ideas then ask myself.”
“How does it work and how can I use it?”
She then gave us an example from early in her career when she would walk around high-end boutique stores and noticed that there were several different languages being spoken. So each time she visited these stores she would listen ask the cashier what language was being spoken. She then started putting real estate ads in those countries’ papers and was able to jump ahead of the competition because she noticed a trend.
She concluded by telling everyone to keep adding crayons to their crayon box, and that her success is in part because her crayon box is very large.
Collecting creative ideas
The world is full of good and bad ideas and now with the internet at our fingertips, we have the greatest access we have ever had to them, but because of that access, it is so easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of ideas from blog posts, Instagram posts, and Facebook posts, you name it, there’s an idea out there every second. Now the challenge is not so much finding ideas but finding the ideas that are essential to you.
How to find them
So how do you find those essential ideas? Well, first you need a problem to solve. Barbra wanted to grow her real estate company by finding more clients. She didn’t find her idea on the internet but observed where the type of people she would want as clients shopped and stumbled on the fact that her potential clientele was global.
So now armed with your question or problem go forth and search the net and all its wealth of information. Also, be observant, always be aware of things that break the pattern of your day-to-day routine. Our brains are programmed to notice breaks in patterns so just be conscious of it, there could be new ideas or answers to your problems found in your day-to-day routine. Now you are ready to capture ideas, but if you, like me, don’t quickly write them down or capture them in some way the idea is quickly lost. So how to keep track of it all?
Where to keep them
My top three tools for capturing ideas for any situation are:
- OneNote is great for quickly grabbing excerpts from other posts, annotating them, and organizing, especially if you have the browser addon installed.
- iPhone Notes is a simple text editor but its strengths lie in the ability to speak in your ideas and have them translated directly to text. It’s a great tool to have when something pops into your head and need a quick way to capture it, and because you always have your phone with you, you don’t have to scramble for a scrap piece of paper.
- Pen and notepad are great for sketching ideas after capture. However, the idea stays with you longer and you tend to revisit the idea, why because writing is a visual exercise and writing gives you better recall and creativity. So if you have can choose to write down your ideas if the situation allows for them.
It’s not a full-proof system to getting everything you observe or have an idea for, but it’s way better than relying on your memory or bookmarking.
How to craft them- Taking an idea and making it your own.
Now that you have collected creative ideas you need to find out how they work and also how you can use them to solve your problem. Everybody has their own set of tools and strategies for breaking ideas down, understanding them, and taking action or testing them. These are mine and why they work for me.
- Miro is a digital whiteboard. It is a great way to visually break down your ideas. You can import text and images, use digital stickies to brainstorm, and interact with mind maps. It has a host of other tools and allows for real-time collaboration by sharing your board with others. I recommend trying it out, you get three free boards when you sign up.
- Pen and paper will always be a great tool, it allows you to fashion your ideas in any format you wish. Something digital note-taking cannot do as well.
- Talking it out to get your idea out of your head. Even if you’re just talking out loud to yourself you will be forced to slow down as you craft the way to describe your ideas. This will allow you to tie different thoughts together and realize flaws as you craft your unique idea.
- Time boxing will keep you from getting bogged down trying to think of every solution possible by limiting the time you have to do so. A quick example exercise is to grab a sharpie and a stack of stickies. Set a timer for 5 minutes then write as many ideas to your problem you can think of in that time. The key is to write everything, good ideas, bad ideas, and variations of the same idea. Try for at least 15-20 ideas. When you’ve finished, start to sort them into categories, as you do, you’ll start to notice your best 2 or 3 ideas to move forward with.
- Take a walk. Walk away from your idea and take a walk or a nap, let your sub-conscience brain work on it for a while. Try another timeboxing session after and see what happens!
- SCAMPER method allows you to take existing ideas and figure out how to apply them to your problem. This is best illustrated by the people at LeanApps.
There are so many tools in our digital world that can help you capture and craft your ideas, find the ones that work best for you. A good starting point for strategies and tools would be Miros’ Blog or try a few of mine, then create your own toolbox for creating ideas.
Now make those ideas your own.
In the end, there are very few original ideas but if you take the time to understand how someone’s idea works and figure out how you can make it work for you by taking action, failing, learning, and once it works. You will have crafted a new creative idea and can add that unique color to your growing crayon box.