As Jack Foster points out in How to Get Ideas, (2007, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.), a common, recurring definition of a new idea is some unexpected recombination of existing ideas. New ideas are rarely, if ever, totally new. So how does one produce these new ideas? Foster presents a five step process:
- Define the problem: Are you asking the right question? Are there different questions you can ask?
- Gather information: Think about the question. Do research. Talk to people and make visits. Dig deep.
- Search for the idea: Get many ideas, and don’t get stuck trying to find just the one best idea. Wait until you have many ideas to analyze them.
- Forget about it: Switch gears and work on another project. Insight will come.
- Put the idea into action: Start right away, when you have enthusiasm for the idea. Make a ‘To Do’ list. Set a deadline and stay with it.
So you can be more productive when you are searching for the idea in Step 3, Foster shares ten ways to ‘Idea-Condition Your Mind’. Among them are:
- Recognize that there are many ideas, many ways to address a situation, and not only one ‘best’ way.
- Visualize success in your project, and imagine getting the ideas that you need.
- Identify what boundaries you are setting that are not really there and what assumptions you are making that are incorrect.
- Work with others, but consider brainstorming with a group of only two to four peers, to give more freedom to come up with crazy ideas.
- Look on less than perfect outcomes not as failures but as challenges and learning opportunities.