If we didn’t ever have new ideas, it’d all be a bit boring, don’t you think? We’d be thinking the same thoughts, writing the same materials and doing the same things. We’d never try anything new, consider something from a new angle or step outside our comfort zones. We wouldn’t learn and grow because we’d always do things the way they’d been done.
Inkhouse’s CEO Beth Monaghan often says, “I’ve never had a great idea staring at my email all day.” Truth, Beth.
So where do new ideas spring from? And how can you create the best environments to prime the idea pump? And since ideas are often spontaneous and random, can you even operationalize the process of brainstorming?
Yes. I believe there are ways to make idea generation both linear and non-linear. Here are a few tips for creating the optimal conditions for great ideas to emerge.
Ideas need to ferment, like yeast or good wine. You probably don’t even know it, but the germ of an idea is usually there in your subconscious, lurking until it pops to the surface. And most of the time, it can’t be forced. You simply need to give those “inklings” the space and opportunity to germinate, and it’s not going to happen when you’re stressed.
For me, the best ideas come most often in the following, usually relaxing, situations: the shower, the car, outdoors and asleep. Which means most of them are outside of usual work hours. So chill out – but keep a pen and notebook, or your laptop or phone, nearby so you can capture those ideas fast. Mine tend to evaporate the moment I step out of the shower (I’m still waiting for someone to invent a web-enabled waterproof whiteboard).
Your brain needs nutrition. Not the food type, but a lot of inputs. Books, podcasts, radio/TV, music, dance, travel, exercise, meditation, social events… it doesn’t really matter what. These inputs are necessary stimuli to keep neurons ignited and your curiosity about people and the world vibrant. Fed often, your subconscious is more likely to grab an input, connect it to that germ and BOOM, you get an idea.
One of Inkhouse’s values is “We generate the best ideas through diversity.” Listening to other points of view, feeding your brain with new sources, meeting and connecting with people from all walks of life, raising uncomfortable or unanswered questions, etc., are all necessary ingredients to produce ideas that aren’t stale or self-serving. Diverse inputs create diverse outputs.
New ideas are a life source that keep us energized, entertained and challenged. It’s up to all of us in communications to always be curious, thinking and seeking ideas everywhere.
Samantha is the executive vice president of Story Crafting at Inkhouse. Her curiosity for business and technology - combined with her love of semantics and communication - has translated into a 20+ year career in PR.