top of page

Creative Ideation tips (How to ideas)

1. Don’t just sit in a room with a pen and paper.

We all start ideating and brainstorming in a room with nothing but pen and paper. But have you ever noticed when you get your best ideas? They’re probably at a random time of day, in the shower, or in the middle of an unrelated conversation with someone.

That’s because creativity works in weird and wonderful ways and forcing it to just happen isn’t one of them. Actually, I take the back, it's just science, and I get into that later.

It is important to initially get everything out of your head and on paper to make room for new ideas and connections, yes, but then it’s important to leave the 4 four walls and get outside.

Find inspiration, get cultured. Watch people, how they behave, what they stop to look at. Go on a walk, notice what’s around you, ads, art, window displays. Go to exhibitions, watch performances, read, talk to interesting people, talk to strangers, watch films, watch comedians, (they speak a lot of truths), and culture yourself.

Broaden your knowledge, be that person who can reference and artist by name, become so cultured that culture itself is jealous. The more you’re aware of, the more experience and inspiration you can pull on, the more effective, quicker and greater your ideas will be.

You don’t know, what you don’t know. So go outside and get to know.

2. Have a physical bank of stuff

This follows on perfectly because, all that stuff I told you to go experience, yeah you want to be able to remember all of it. SO WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN.

We're not all Sherlock Holmes with mind palaces of stored information and memories.

I write everything in my iPhone notes because I always have my phone to hand wherever I am. My notes on my iPhone are chaotic and wouldn’t make sense to an outsider, but as soon as I look back over them, I remember what I meant immediately.

There’s only so much information your brain can store front of mind without any stimulation.

Write down that artist’s name, the amazing line you just thought of in the shower, that song reference, that weird idea, every weird thought or question. If you’re anything like me, forgetful AF, you’ll thank yourself for writing those stupid things down. It’s those stupid random thoughts that are unique and they sometimes make for really unique, original ideas.

Neuroscientist Professor Faraneh Vargha-Khadem says ‘Thoughts are fleeting so the only way that we can capture our own thoughts is if we either talked about them, wrote them down or signed them into physical reality.” Don’t argue with science, you won’t remember a fleeting thought, so write it down.

You'll thank me later.

3. Keep calm and don’t carry on

The beautiful yet most annoying thing about creativity is, it can’t be forced and it likes to do things in its own time. Stress is known as the creativity killer.

When you’re under stress your brain doesn’t behave normally, it becomes distracted, it can’t think critically, it makes mistakes. Stress hijacks the brain’s higher functions.

Creativity is at its optimum when, well, we’re not thinking.

Our brain’s creative doors are wide open when in the default network mode which is activated most when in a state of pure relaxation or daydreaming. Ever noticed that ideas come to you when you’re not thinking about them, when you’re driving a car, having a shower, on a walk, staring out a window, in the middle of the night, or the second you wake up in the morning.

There’s a ‘Science of Creative Thinking’ blog coming soon which will delve into some basic neuroscience, and how to stimulate and activate areas of your brain that are associated with creative thinking, to optimise and control the effectiveness of coming up with ideas. (Remember when I said earlier, about mastering your thinking).

Learning how to control your mind to get into a Theta state, (a relaxed/automatic state of mind), is a skill any good creative, who depends on their creative thinking as their job, should conquer. If you’re stressed, preoccupied, your mind is elsewhere or you’ve just hit a wall, don’t force it and don’t carry on.

Being ‘happy’ has a huge part to play in the fluidity of creativity. The neurotransmitters that are associated with creative thinking are dopamine, serotonin and neuropeptide oxytocin.

So the moral of the story is, if you’re not in the right frame of mind one day, no matter how hard you try, your brain’s neurotransmitters are literally working against you, so just leave it and sleep on it. Your brain does an amazing job of problem-solving when you’re asleep. You can’t force creativity.

Let it come to you.

4. Use thinking techniques

People believe because humans think subconsciously all the time, that it’s not a skill that requires practicing and mastering. Coming up with original, unique ideas over and over again, is hard.

Sometimes we need help and guidance. Creative thinking techniques are a great way to kick start the process and help our brains approach a problem from a different angle. I’ll be covering creative thinking techniques in a future post but for now here are 3 of the most commonly used ones.

1.0 What if?

Ask your question, a question. Ask, ‘What if?’

‘What if’ is a technique rooted in Thought experimentation, it’s a good way to encourage lateral thinking, (thinking sideways, not forwards). Asking ‘what if,’ opens up possibilities, everything rational goes out the window, its about thinking big and thinking wild.

‘What if we could…. What if this happened….’

There are no constraints, no boundaries, just pure thinking madness. The question of ‘What if?’ allows you to stretch every dimension of the issue.

2.0 180 flip

Flip your problem, idea, starting point 180. How does it look in reverse? Does that create a more interesting angle? If you initial question is, ‘What if this did this…’, the 180 technique asks, ‘But what if it didn’t.

3.0 Change your perspective

How does this problem, idea or starting point look from someone else’s perspective? What would your dog think of it? What would your floor matt think of it? Seeing someone from a new perspective is a good place to find new, original and unique stories and ideas.

Others are: writing down all associated words to your problem/idea, and ideating around singular words. OR turning everything in a metaphor. Turn your metaphor into a metaphor and keep going.

5. Ride the wave of creativity, there will be turbulence

The proccess of ideation isn't linear.

Don't expect the same process to work every time. Try new things, especially if the way you're working, isn't working. Ride the creative wave and dare I say it, go with the flow.

Sometimes your first idea is your best idea, sometimes it's the last idea minutes before a deadline, sometimes you can't get any good ideas from thinking techniques, sometimes an idea is sparked in the most random situations.

Sometimes you creativity will be overflowing and you can boss a brief in a day, other times it's as if someone has ctrl alt deteled your brain and there's just nothing going on up there. It doesn't mean you're not a good creative, it's just part of the process.

Every creative can relate to feeling like the Kanye West's of creative genius' one day and a total failure the next.

So, my advice, just ride with it and accept that's the creative process. It ain't easy or simple, it's a ride.

43 views0 comments


bottom of page