It's a Social Media World

A Discussion on Digital Media & Communication Trends

How To Fire Up Your Personal Idea Engine

In Jack Foster’s How to Get Ideas, Foster discuss the thought that ideas do not just happen to ‘idea people.’ Ideas happen to people when they are open to the prospect of ideas. Foster’s entire book is focused on how to cultivate the idea machine in your personal self or with your team. One suggestion Foster makes was particularly inspiring. His claim is that by increasing the diversity of your routine, activities, and accessed information (even when it is uncomfortable) will automatically strengthen your ability to develop ideas. Foster calls it ‘Getting new inputs.’ The basic idea is to get out of your comfort zone. He suggests some of the following:

  • Read a book you have no interest in
  • Watch a movie you think you won’t like
  • Try to drive to work a different way
  • Take a class you have never taken before
  • Stop taking your surroundings for granted and look for new things within them

What a fabulous initiative to strive for both personally and professionally. In my personal life I enjoy diverse activities, but in the work environment it is often difficult. Efficiency is often more important than idea creation, and if we are not careful we can fall into the efficiency trap: faster, better, cheaper. Companies always want it cheaper and better, but I like to ask myself sometimes do we really need it faster. If the answer is no, don’t sacrifice the other two.

So this idea of ‘Getting New Inputs’ prompted me to think through my team’s skills. What were skills they possessed that we were not using? My mind quickly landed on our graphic designer. He is a fabulous artist. He uses his innate artistic ability daily in a virtual environment, but he is never given the ability to physically create art pieces. This one thought snowballed into a campaign that was able to highlight a key competitive advantage for my company, include philanthropic values my organization upholds while simultaneously providing our designer with the opportunity to truly create art. Two days a week our designer is going to spend them away from his desk in a separate office designing and creating art pieces that we will showcase in a gallery for a culminating campaign event.

By stepping back and thinking about what we could do differently within our department a unique, personal and exciting opportunity presented itself. Not to mention the excitement and employee engagement the campaign is already beginning to generate.

So break out of your comfort zone, refuse to fall into the efficiency trap and you just might surprise yourself. Now that’s an idea!

What are ways you need to get out of an old rut? Do you need to see something in a new light? Is there a process that needs to be reinvented? Tell me about it!

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6 comments on “How To Fire Up Your Personal Idea Engine

  1. Thom Shepard
    June 14, 2011

    For me, the rut is personal. I’ve lived a very comfortable life for the past several years, and through some creativity exercises and trying to identify my passion, I think I’m realizing that’s just not OK for me anymore. So I’m pushing the boundries-exposing myself to different and varied things, talking to those who are responsible for the different and varied things, and most importantly I’m opening myself up to the possibilities. It’s exciting, isn’t it, when you start to move away from that rut?!

  2. haley
    June 20, 2011

    That is awesome, Kristen. I wish my boss would create a cool, fun project for me! I can’t imagine reading a book I don’t want to read, but I do like to take a scenic route home from work from time to time. But, you’re absolutely right. You can’t think outside of the box if you never leave it 🙂

    • kbconway
      June 20, 2011

      Thanks Haley! We are excited about the campaign and it is great when you can use people’s talents to really connect the message. Talk about a genuine experience! I love your line “You can’t think outside of the box if you never leave it.” Hope you don’t mind if I use it 🙂

  3. Sean Busher
    June 20, 2011

    I agree with these sentiments. Often we spend so much time “doing” what it takes to get ahead (personally and in our businesses) that we become overly focused and can’t see the broader picture. That broader picture includes lots of creative ideas, not just the “faster, better, cheaper” mentality of what’s worked in the past. Sorrowfully, I am guilty of this. Which is why when I come home from vacations I’m often blessed with random thoughts of ingenuity – because I’ve been seeing, doing, tasting and living outside of my norm (doing, doing, doing). So in my daily life I try to build in those little differences that can add up to big change. Funny you mention driving a different way home, because I tell people that too. My wife and I call it preventing Alzheimer’s disease because we saw a study suggesting a routine can erode the brain in such a way. We also try to change where we sleep (different sides of the bed, different room), eat at different restaurants (the good part of Groupon) and wear each other’s clothes.

    • kbconway
      June 20, 2011

      Sean – Thank you for sharing your personal experience. Unfortunately, I think we are all guilty of trying to recreate past successes. Your suggestions are fabulous! Maybe I can talk my husband into switching sides of the bed with me tonight. 🙂

  4. Leah
    June 22, 2011

    I like the suggestion of reading a book you have no interest in. Although, I’m not sure I could actually make myself read it…

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