Where do great ideas come from?

I don’t know.

John Cleese gets his from Mr Ken Levinshaw who lives in Swindon. He gets them from Mildred Spong who lives on the Isle of Wight. She refuses to say where she gets them from.

I know this important fact because I’ve just watched a great presentation by John Cleese where he shares his thoughts on creativity and idea generation.It’s only ten minutes long, but in case you are too busy, I think it can be summarised with two key points (but you should watch it).

  • Creativity is dependent on creating a space where you have time to think.
  • By revisiting your ideas you can improve them.

It struck a chord with me. I’ve always been slightly worried that my ideas don’t come from normal routes. Normal to me is tapping away at a computer or sitting in brainstorming meetings.

In fact, anyone who has been involved in a brainstorm with me knows that I can be terribly annoying as all I try to do is get off the subject matter.

So, inspired by Mr Cleese, I’ve tried to lay out my ideal route for developing a great idea. This may be of use to you or sound like a load of old tosh. But if I had my way, this is how I’d like to work…

Start with a problem.Read everything about it and the audience for whom the solution is needed.

Look for examples of how other industries / sectors / people have tackled similar and associated problems.

Chat to people you trust about your early thoughts. Maybe explain some of your ideas to them.

Leave the problem alone and go and do something else that allows your subconscious to roam – swim, run, sleep, play computer games, watch TV, drive down to Cornwall and go surfing.

Avoid the following creativity killers…

  • Day to day work
  • Staff who just turn up at your desk asking a quick question
  • Picking up the telephone
  • E-mail
  • Being hit with everyday problems
  • People who want you to calm their anxieties

Go back to your problem and wait for your brain to give you the answer. This normally only happens to me when I start getting a little bored.

Develop it, double check it, work out why it won’t work and why it will. Chuck out the junk and concentrate on the good stuff.

Present it to trusted colleagues and friends and see what they can add or take away. Remember to ignore people if you don’t agree with them.

Reverse engineer it and develop a presentation that demonstrates the logic trail that you might have followed if creative thought worked that way.

Leave it alone and go and do more stuff that allows your subconscious to roam – swim, run, sleep, play computer games, watch TV, drive down to Cornwall (again) and go surfing (again).

Revisit it, make it better and then present it.

After the presentation, revise it.

Job done (normally less than one month late).

I’d now recommend you watch the presentation.

Hat tip to Creative Reaction.