Every Wednesday afternoon around 1:30 or so, the huge Kohler generator outside my office cranks up, running through a loud cycle that exercises the motor. I’ve often wished, as I contemplated B2B blogging topics or other creative marketing ideas, that my brain cranked up so easily. Perhaps like the generator, which prepares itself weekly for that once-a-year winter ice storm or summer power outage, I should regularly run my mental motor in preparation for the brainstorms expected of me at our B2B marketing firm.
When you have a career in advertising and marketing, you witness extreme creativity at all levels. Some people prefer hashing out concepts and ideas in a group setting, while others work best alone. The ideas come, sometimes quickly, sometimes slower. So how can you keep your brain gears oiled for idea generation? Here are a few methods specifically for individuals:
Absence Thinking: Think about what is not there. Think about what you’re thinking about, then think about what you’re not thinking about. When you look at something, notice what is not there. Watch people and notice what they do not do. The psychology of thought is such that we are very good at seeing what is there, but not at all good at seeing what isn’t there. Absence thinking compensates for this by deliberately forcing us to do what we do not naturally do.
Art Streaming: Keep creating until you get through the blocks. Go hide somewhere. Create nonstop. Let your subconscious create whatever is on your mind. Just see what appears. Even if you like what you’ve done so far, put it aside. Just keep going. This also works as Talk Streaming and Write Streaming, depending on your personality and creative field. Just keep streaming until an idea appears.
Doodling: Take a pen and paper, and just draw. You can do it in meetings, at your desk, or pretty much anywhere. Avoid trying to think about the problem; just let your subconscious do the drawing. When you finish, look at what you’ve drawn. What does it tell you? Look at it obliquely and see shapes within the shapes. Let your mind wander and see what it comes up with.
Incubation: Let your subconscious do the work. Immerse yourself in the situation, exploring all angles and thinking in detail about the problem. Now do nothing. Let the Eureka moment happen. The subconscious will eventually reward your patience by popping an idea into your conscious mind some time later. When this happens is not very predictable – hence why the classic “three Bs” are while you are in bed, bath or bus (note how these are relaxing moments). In order to catch these slippery ideas, always carry pen and paper, or a mini recorder.
Wishing: State your ideas as wishes. Wishing helps expand thinking. Think of the situation in a wishful, fantastic sense. Think beyond sensible, beyond practical, and feasible. Just think about what would be really nice, or simply interesting. Think playfully, like a child. Step outside the box. Act as if the box wasn’t there. Be wishful, wistful, and wonderful. Another variation: “Wouldn’t it be nice if…” This is the method I was using when I wished my brain started up like generator outside my window.
Just like that generator, which stands ready for inclement weather, we should regularly engage our thinking motor to yield unique and creative ideas.