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As I am writing this post, I am exhausted.

This week/weekend has been filled with visitors (and being an introvert this is exhausting in and of itself), physical labor (someone, not me, thought it was a good idea to stain the fence over the weekend), and work when I could squeeze it in (damn it, if we don’t have something to buy on the site this week…).  And its 9pm, and I need a blog post for my Sunday night post.

I sat down to write and nothing would come to my fingertips.  I went through my notebooks of ideas, and I saw one around getting inspired.  And since I needed a little inspiration it seemed like the perfect topic.

Let’s get creative!

Whether it is a topic for a blog post, features for a product, or even just solutions to a problem, it helps to have some different techniques to shake things up.  When you are trying to come up with a new ideas (the keyword being “new”) it helps to break out of your regular mold and do something a bit different.

You can’t expect to sit at your desk and get great ideas.  You have to take action or you won’t come up with anything new or innovative. You have to be exposed to things in order to have something to say.

This week take a moment to try some of these tactics for a problem you’re facing, or for a goal or direction you  need to nail down a bit more concretely.  Maybe even turn one of your meetings into a whole new cradle of creative energy.

  • Location, location, location.  Ever wonder why offsites are off site? Besides helping your team get away from distractions, changing scenery can also give you a whole new perspective. It helps you focus on the task at hand by removing your normal surroundings and changing your normal processes — you have no choice but to innovate. Try taking a regular meeting and relocating to somewhere new – maybe even outside, or to another building, or coffee shop.
  • Make a wish.  If you are thinking about a problem or feature, spend some time coming up with your wish solutions. For example, instead of thinking how you can lose some weight, think about how you could invent calorie-free apple pie. Or how you could exercise without sweating so much. What would be your wish solutions?  Sometimes these off-the-wall of ideas can take you to a new line of thinking you hadn’t considered previously. Plus, who doesn’t like wishing?
  • Focus on quantity instead of quality. When Kate and I were working on the content strategy for popforms, I told her we were going to come up with 100 blog posts in one sitting. She thought I was joking, but then when I started counting each one, and telling her we had 48 more to go, she started to get the idea. When we were done, we both felt that there were a good 52 weeks worth of ideas in our list of 100. And sure, they all weren’t amazing, but in that hour we ended up with so many ideas to pull from that all we had to do was pick and choose a few that were really good to get started.
  • Take a brainwalk. I first read about brainwalking, and brainwriting in the book Idea Stormers (a great reference for further reading). “Brainwriting is a simple group ideation technique in which each person in the group writes an idea down on a piece of paper and then passes his or her paper to the person to the right, who then builds on that idea and contributes his or her own. If you repeat this process five times in a group of 10 people, you would develop 50 ideas in no time. A great technique! But brainwalking is even better. Instead of passing the paper around, you post flip chart paper around a room. Each person has to go around the room, adding his or her ideas to each piece of paper and building on those already submitted by his or her peers. It’s a lot more fun. Since each person can write his or her ideas down without “presenting” them to the group, both brainwriting and brainwalking have the advantage of eliciting ideas from the introverts in the room-which is a shortcoming of traditional brainstorming.”
  • Reach out and touch someone (or just talk, which may be more appropriate). Need some inspiration? Ask people that are not at all involved. Explain the problem to your parents, your neighbor, your book club buddy. Sometimes the act of breaking things down so someone outside the immediate problem can understand the issue helps you see things more clearly. This framing and simplification can help you hone in and focus on the key aspects of the problem that really matter. And sometimes this other person can bring an anthropological cross-pollination from their world which ends up being pure genius in yours.
  • Speed storm it.  When all else fails write down 20 ideas in 2 minutes. No, I am not joking. It doesn’t matter what the idea is, and even if it is unrelated, just write it.  Anything that pops into your mind write it down. Just write it fast. You may be amazed what turns up on the paper.

And always remember: keep your notebook (or other recording device) with you all the time.  You never know when great ideas will strike and you want to always be in the position to capture them before they float away.

Feeling inspired?  Try one or two of these out this week and post your thoughts in the comments.  Or if you have other ideas and ways to get inspired, share those too!  You can never have too many methods to mix things up and get those creative juices flowing….


Tags: better leader, brainstorm, creative, inspiration,

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