Business Nov 23, 2016
Where Do Great Ideas Come From? (Hint: Not Where You Think)

Do your best ideas come from sitting down, focused with a pad of paper, and trying to come up with them?

Or do they come spontaneously, when you least expect them to, and then quickly float away before you can capture them?

Here is a quick rundown of the most common responses to my question:

Where do you come up with your best ideas?
• Walking
• Running
• Traveling (airplanes, airports, trains, buses)
• Falling Asleep or Waking Up
• In Conversation with Friends
• Listening to Audiobooks or Podcasts
• Showering

“Great ideas come when you aren’t trying to think of them.”

Great ideas don’t happen when you want them to. You can’t make them happen.

However, you can set yourself and your environment up to be ready for your next great idea.

Ideas follow five simple steps:
1. Generate the Idea
By this point you should realize that great ideas come from external stimulation and non-work experiences.

Every day you should be doing things that generate ideas passively.
Can’t think of a name for your latest project?
Then stop looking through synonyms online and go somewhere like a grocery store or market. Places with many colors, smells, and people will get your creativity flowing.

Whenever you feel stuck and can’t think of great ideas, change your environment.

2. Document that Idea:
If you don’t document your ideas immediately you may lose them forever.

Don’t trust your memory. Don’t think that you’ll remember it in five minutes. Have a system for documenting your ideas the second you have them.

It could be in the form of Post-it notes, moleskins, pen and paper, iPhone, etc.

Whether you use a digital or analog tool, make sure you have a way to document your ideas quickly so you can get back to whatever it was you were doing.

3. Organize your Ideas:
Once you get all of your ideas down you’ll need a way to organize and categorize that idea list.

This is especially true if your ideas are all over the place (in your email inbox, on post-it notes, written on your hand, etc.).

Figure out what each of the major categories of ideas that you may have are and then set aside some time once a week to sort through all of them.

4. Cull your ideas:
Let’s be honest. Not all ideas are great, most aren’t even good. If you’re going to figure out which one of your ideas you should execute next you need to filter out the ones that are garbage.

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make with idea generation is that they never trash any ideas they’ve had.

Every time they go to their list of ideas they see ones that have been sitting there for over a year.

Instead of focusing on the 5 or 10 great ideas they’ve had in the past month for new content or projects, they have to waste time sifting through 100’s of notes and ideas they’ve jotted down over the past few years.

Make a habit of going through your lists of ideas and culling out ones you are never going to use.
It is okay to forget bad ideas. Think of it as making room for better ones.

5. Execute Your Best Ideas
The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.

That’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.” – Derek Sivers.

Take your best ideas and execute them. That is where success comes from.
Here it is. The most important step. Without execution, ideas are worthless.

Ideas come when you least expect them to, so you need to document, organize, and cull them before you execute them as best you can.

If you can do this over and over again, your best ideas will rise to the top and you’ll no longer be wasting your time and energy shipping your worst ideas.

It's been said many times that to have lots of good ideas, we need to have lots of bad ones, too. We need lots of ideas, period.

What people often skip over when talking about producing ideas is the effort and skill required to filter out the bad ones and recognize the ones worth pursuing.

"Someone asked me where I get all my good ideas, explaining that it takes him a month or two to come up with one and I seem to have more than that. I asked him how many bad ideas he has every month. He paused and said, 'None.'"- Seth Godin, author...

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