A Technique For Producing Ideas explains a very simple, very basic, and very important 5-step process for creating ideas. The concepts aren’t earth-shattering, but well time-tested.
Step 1: Gather Raw Material. Instead of waiting for inspiration to solve a problem, start by collecting both specific (depth) and general (breadth) knowledge. Ideas are often born by combining things in a new way.
Step 2: Digest Raw Material. This step is probably the hardest to do when you’ve got a looming deadline. But you need to take the time to ponder the raw material you gathered to become deeply familiar with it. You’re not actively looking for a solution, you’re letting the solution find you magnetically. Find something of interest, and combine it with something else. You’re putting together a puzzle, but don’t know what the final picture will look like yet.
Step 3: Take a Break. After you’ve gathered, and digested, you need to let it ferment mentally. Your mind is expert at juggling the bits to create a whole “in the background”. Instead of staring at the problem and burning yourself out, walk away physically from it, and do something enjoyable. While relaxing (and recharging) your mind is still trying to solve the problem you’ve presented it.
Step 4: Constantly Think About It. Almost magically, you’ll likely have your “Idea” seemingly out of thin air. It’s your subconscious reporting in with the answer you sought. This is what most people think that great idea people do – they magically “get” answers. They do so mostly because they’ve done their mental homework – and prepared to innovate.
Step 5: Test It. Just because you have what you think is the “answer” doesn’t mean that it’s complete or even correct. Patience. Test it in the world – open yourself for criticism or ensure that the idea truly addresses the core problems you’re trying to solve. Your initial idea may simply be the “seed crystal” – the thing that triggers the full solution from a small part.
Generating ideas in a modern, rushed society is hard. Remember, if the solution was easy – it would be obvious. But patiently stalk the idea by understanding, digesting, and fermenting. Then, harvest your ideas and enjoy them.