Unlock Your Hidden Creative Genius With These Tips
The single biggest hack for better decisions is better ideation
“Every problem is an idea problem,” wrote Stanford instructors Jeremy Utley and Perry Klebahn in their book Ideaflow.
You can’t pick an excellent idea out of a pool of mediocre ideas.
Would you rather have 3 okay ideas or 2 excellent ideas amongst a huge pool of ideas?
The single biggest hack for better decisions is better ideation.
Ideation is also the second step in my Five-Step Framework For Superior Work Performance.
The Secrets Behind Creative Ideas
Seed your creativity
Creativity is combining existing ideas in novel ways. That means we need to collect lots of existing ideas from books, blogs, customers, and colleagues.
Give yourself rest
“I’ll sleep on it” is backed by research. Our subconscious continues to work on problems even when we’re resting.
Commit to quantity
Top performers come up with far more bad ideas than the average person.
That’s because they come up with a zillion ideas. It’s said that Sir James Dyson created 5,127 prototypes before succeeding with his famous bagless vacuum cleaner.
Quantity leads to quality.
Let your bad ideas live
Write down your bad ideas too. Share them with others.
Bad ideas crashing into each other can lead to good ideas.
Realize that you don’t use up your creativity
If you feel like you’re out of ideas after the first five, you’re not alone.
Creativity, however, tends to increase or remain constant across an ideation session, according to the professors Loran Nordgren and Brian Lucas.
Keep ideating for just a little longer when you think you’re done.
Put It Into Practice
Do a mini-ideation sprint
Next time you find yourself picking between 2-3 options, take a step back. Set a timer for 3 minutes and try to generate 10 more ideas.
It’s okay if all 10 are bad. You’ll come up with awesome ideas if you do this regularly.
Try “seed, sleep, solve”
Here’s what Utley and Plebahn recommend in their book Ideaflow:
Seed: Flood your brain with input on the chosen problem before bed
Sleep: Let your brain create new connections
Solve: Do a mini-ideation sprint upon waking
Take copious notes
At the Stanford d.school (i.e., design school) they recommend writing down anything you want to remember and then reviewing those notes weekly.
Modify team brainstorming
Here’s the best-practice:
Be no more than six people
Each person should have some prior knowledge of the issue
Ask each person for two ideas before any group sharing (to combat group think)
Set a timer and aim for as many ideas as possible (the goal is quantity, not quality, at this point)
To contribute, each person writes an idea on a post-it note, says it out loud, and puts the post-it on the wall. Saying it out loud is important to spur new ideas for other participants
Want to bring better brainstorming practices to your team?
 Ideaflow, Jeremy Utley and Perry Klebahn, 2022
 Good morning creativity: task reactivation during sleep enhances beneficial effect of sleep on creative performance, Simone Ritter et al., Journal of Sleep, 2012
 Your Best Ideas Are Often Your Last Ideas, Loran Nordgren and Brian Lucas, Harvard Business Review, 2021