sleep on it idea generation creative thinking

Apart from the sleep-on-it idea generation technique (yes that sometimes really works) some simple creative thinking techniques can really help get your ideas flowing. What are your favourite methods of getting ideas?

I remember the first idea generation method I learned. It was in my year of art college. I can’t remember what starting word/point we were given, but we were taught to create mind maps. These weren’t your highly structured content-organising mind maps either. We were told to allow our thoughts to flow with free association. So if I had the word boot I could associate puddle or hole rather than sticking with types or parts of a shoe.

Mind maps with associated drawings

We were also taught to add drawings or doodles to the mind maps. This would allow you to see visual associations as well as verbal ones. For instance, If I had drawn a boot with laces, those laces might look like a ladder and I could add that to the mind map too.

A page of words and pictures

After filling up a large A2 sheet of paper with words and drawings we were asked to assemble some of those unconnected items visually. This is the way we come up with many of our ideas whether we are aware of it or not. We combine elements of two or more different things to create something new. I can remember creating a drawing of a boot, but the end of the boot was a clown’s head. There were other elements too, but these have slipped from my memory.

Everyone should be taught this simple creative technique

I remember how much I loved this exercise. It was the first time that I realised that you didn’t have to just wait for ideas to magically appear in your head. You could actually go searching for them. It’s sad that it took going to art college to learn this technique, which is so simple it can be used by anyone.

This loose form of mind mapping has since become one of my first go-to creative thinking techniques when I need ideas. Since then I’ve learned more creative thinking techniques. While mind mapping is my first port of call, using randomness has become a close second. This involves taking a random word or image and working out how you can associate it with the problem or task you are working on.

Use randomness to break thinking patterns

Randomness works well when you feel like you’re stuck or coming up with predictable ideas. Randomness and mind mapping work alongside each other very well as I have shown in my post about using random words for blog post ideas. I will go into this further in a future post.

What’s your favourite method of idea generation?

Post inspired by a Facebook group meme on Creative Push