Where do good ideas come from?

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It’s a question I’ve thought about and returned to regularly over the years. It has had implications both for my own work and also that of my design students at the University of Lincoln. Now though, what has changed is that I think the principles for idea generation could easily be applied to any problem, in design, business or elsewhere.  I previously said that, for me, there is no ‘magic formula’, but that you can at least create the circumstances where good ideas have the chance to emerge. What I do know is that staring at a blank sheet of paper never works for me. Anyway, you could try these:http://mountainsphoto.ru

1) Keep your eyes, ears and mind open at all times
2) Do your homework. Find out and understand all you can about your subject matter – answers don’t usually magic themselves out of thin air
3) Share the problem by asking others what they think – they may say, draw or otherwise spark something that leads to a great idea. Oh, and remember that we’re all creative people, so ask someone you don’t usually ask
4) Surround yourself with visual and aural stimuli and be prepared to make unexpected or illogical connections
5) Look at how others have approached similar problems
6) Persevere. Keep going – an idea is more likely to materialise in hours, rather than minutes
7) If nothing is working then stop thinking about the problem, go for a walk and try again later. Believe me, it’s not wasted time.

Of these, I think that ‘sharing the problem’ is perhaps the quickest way to get around a creative impasse. However, make sure that you ask someone unconnected from the issue – that way, you’ll get more honest (and more useful) answers.

My formula then is that there is no formula. Just a series of tried and tested tactics that might just help. Finally, I showed my students this video on the great British designer Alan Fletcher, who sadly passed away in 2006. The video is mostly about his book ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’. It’s well worth sparing ten minutes to hear what he had to say.