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Good Idea Generation

It seems incongruous that good idea generation can be a process or that a process may lead to insight. However, if you examine the behaviour of people who regularly generate good ideas 'such as creatives in advertising 'you will find that common patterns of behaviour do emerge and it is possible to make insight more likely.
a) Creativity is often triggered by the need to solve a problem. People who generate good ideas tend to clearly identify the problem through a tangible process. They will look at a problem from various perspectives, create multiple definitions of it and ask many others to contribute to the precise nature and basic qualities of the problem as they see it.
b) Problems require intense investigation. People who generate good ideas intensely investigate the problem using various knowledge bases and information sources. This allows frame breaking, reduces path dependency and parochialism and allows the intellectual cross-pollination that gets people thinking in new directions.

c) Forced productivity. People who come up with good ideas force themselves to produce ideas without evaluating those ideas. They will separate creative from critical thinking and simply bash out ideas using a variety of techniques. Common methods involve linking to diverse objects and concepts, vertical and lateral thinking techniques. They will regularly maximise the size and quality of their idea pool. This patterns the mind into seeking answers and triggers cognitive activity at multiple levels.

d) Seek stimuli. People who think of good ideas seek out stimuli from novel, diverse and numerous sources. The range of stimuli is infinite and this tends to suit people who have or benefit from a life long interest and curiosity in many subjects.

e) Constant conscious thought. People who generate good ideas constantly think about the problem at all times. Often they describe themselves as incapable of thinking of anything else, no matter what distractions may be present. Hence the common occurrence of descriptions such as 'obsessed,' 'single-minded,' 'preoccupied,' 'compulsive,' 'consumed,' 'captivated,' 'infatuated,' 'absorbed', 'immersed,' 'possessed,' 'hooked' and so forth.

f) Engagement in rest and unrelated activities. People who generate good ideas will allow for rest and engagement in unrelated activities, which allows unconscious processes to take over. It is at this point that insight is common. Having progressed past the previous stages numerous times, the solution presents itself when engaging in something completely unrelated.
g) Incubation. Following intense cognitive activity, it may be that the problem is set aside. A solution may present itself at any point thereafter.

The above process can be learned, controlled and the effective use of it is just as much a matter of practice as any tool. It explains why some people are more able to regularly generate a large number of diverse and novel ideas. Two relevant footnotes should be applied:

a) It is compelling that the more complex the problem, the longer the process.
b) Further, the closer the idea is to the origin of the S-curve (a measurement of impediments), the greater the number of intermediary issues requiring resolution before a solution can be obtained.

Kal Bishop, MBA, Kal Bishop,

You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and web address is included.

About the Author: Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller.


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