5 ways to generate more ideas than you’ll ever need

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”
“• Marie Curie

In 1666, a 23-year-old man sat in a garden in Lincolnshire when an apple fell on his head. You know the rest…

But given that most of us sit in offices each day, toiling away as distractions and changing priorities pull us in different directions, how do you replicate the moment Isaac Newton enjoyed?

It’s a daily challenge for anyone working in content marketing – and just about everyone else, too.

How can you guarantee a constant flow of ideas?

1. Practice

James Altucher  recommends carrying a waiter’s pad and forcing yourself to write 10 ideas on one topic every day.

The discipline of daily practice, he says, will eventually turn you into an “˜idea machine’.

“Note that when you exercise in the gym, your muscles don’t start to build until you break a sweat… The same thing happens with the idea muscle.

“Somewhere around idea number six, your brain starts to sweat. This means it’s building up. Break through this. Come up with ten ideas.”

2. 6-3-5 brainwriting

Never mind 10 ideas a day. How about 108 in just 30 minutes?

First devised by professor Bernd Rohrbach in 1968, 6-3-5 brainwriting involves a group of people each producing three ideas every five minutes for a 30-minute spell.

But Rohrbach’s original system needed six people in the same room passing pieces of paper between each other.

Now you can use the same theory for a group anywhere between two and 10 people in size, with each group member being anywhere in the world – all they need is internet access.

Try 6-3-5 brainwriting here.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
“• George Bernard Shaw

3. Go for a walk

In 2014, Stanford researchers found that creative output increases by an average of 60% while walking.

And you don’t have to be enjoying  a quiet stroll in beautiful countryside for walking to have an effect.

The study’s co-author, Marily Oppezzo, said: “I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results.”

4. Read more books

Books bring different worlds – yours and the author’s – crashing together. They fire the imagination like little else.

Some recommend keeping an idea index while you read, making sure any fleeting seconds of inspiration are captured.

But however you do it, there’s little doubt that increasing the amount you read will boost your creativity.

For a practical book on where you can gather ideas, try Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.

5. Meet new people

In truth, good ideas rarely fall from the sky. They’re often the result of conversations and influences, and seeing connections where previously there were none.

Here’s what Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, said: “It’s very, very rare to find cases where somebody on their own, working alone, in a moment of sudden clarity has a great breakthrough that changes the world. And yet there seems to be this bizarre desire to tell the story that way.”

Make an effort to talk to those outside your usual circle. You never know what you might be missing.

For more on generating new ideas, watch Steven Johnson’s TED Talk.


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