by Kristi Faulkner
Disruption continues to unseat market leaders, media continues to fragment, and the unstoppable march of technology continues to gain momentum. Can anyone in business today deny that we live and work in a sometimes-chaotic, rapidly-changing, innovation-driven world?
No matter what career path you pursue, the expectation to reinvent, innovate and deliver out-of-the-box solutions weigh heavily on your ability to succeed. In fact, a group of international CEO’s ranked “creative thinking as the #1 leadership quality required for success in business today.”
So what if you don’t consider yourself a creative type? Can creativity be learned? How can you enhance the idea generating skills you have?
“Anyone can learn to unlock their creative problem-solving genius so essential to success,” says Mitchell Rigie, a creativity trainer and founding partner at SmartStorming. Mitchell is the co-author of a book chocked full of easy-to-learn approaches he believes anyone can leverage to generate ideas.
I asked Mitchell for his best tips for coming up with big ideas under pressure. Here’s what he shared:
1. Always clarify your challenge and goals before you begin.
Understand the nature of the challenge you are tackling – be precise, without vagueness or ambiguity and be sure there are no important missing facts or pieces of information that might make it more difficult to effectively solve the challenge. Consider if there’s an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Then, set a clear goal in mind for your idea generation efforts. How many ideas would you like to generate? Define the nature of the ideas you’d like to produce, whether they are simple conversation starters, or fully fleshed out concepts, strategies, or tactics.
2. Stock your creative pond before fishing for ideas. And preferably, daily.
Take the time to observe, explore, discover, be curious, and take note of things that inspire you, or that you find interesting, fascinating, or provocative. Seek out new and different types of stimuli to help spark your brain’s power of associative thinking and trigger the spontaneous leaps that foster new connections. Stimuli can be anything from information, data, pictures movies/videos, magazines/books, web surfing, museums, performances, nature, history, etc. The more stimuli you have to play with, the more connections you’ll make.
3. Use a variety of ideation techniques to stimulate new ways of thinking.
Ideation techniques are novel, imagination-stimulating activities designed to help you tackle challenges from a fresh perspective. Here are four of Mitchell’s favorites:
- Associative Thinking—a process where one idea spontaneously triggers another, which triggers another, which triggers another, and so on.
- Adaptive Thinking—based on the theory that virtually every new, innovative concept, product, service, or process is really (in one way or another) an adaptation of something else that already exists, or has existed in the past.
- Counterintuitive Thinking—Sometimes a really bad, radical or impractical sounding idea can contain the seeds of a big, game-changing idea within it.
- Challenging Assumptions—a powerful way to question the status quo and move beyond any perceived limitations or barriers. By doing so, you can imagine bold new solutions never before thought possible.
4. Manage your “divergent” and “convergent” thinking processes.
When generating ideas, your thinking either diverges outward, in a 360-degree, blue sky exploration of a variety of ideas (employing curiosity, imagination, and intuition) with no regard for quality; or converges inward in an effort to evaluate, judge and select ideas.
It’s vitally important not to mix these two modes of thinking. Convergent thinking will shut-down brainstorming with self-judgments and criticisms. And divergent thinking will sidetrack critical, logic-based convergent thinking with distractions brought about by new ideas.
As a simple rule, says Mitchell, only when you’re 100% finished generating ideas should you switch to convergent thinking to evaluate them.
5. Always predetermine objective criteria for evaluating ideas.
Mitchell encourages you to visualize what the perfect solution or result would look like and then, before you even begin brainstorming, create a short list of objective standards to judge it. After you generate as many as you can, rate each idea based on how well it meets your criteria. And voila, you have your solution!
Your mind is a wonderful incubator, and if you learn to stimulate it optimally, the ideas you’ll produce will be both limitless and groundbreaking. Check out SmartStormer for lots more ideas for coming up with lots more ideas.