7 Smart Ways To Come Up With More Ideas At Work

Aimee Groth and Jhaneel Lockhart | Jan. 21, 2012, 2:01 PM | 40,361 | 

Google, LA

You don’t have to be a genius to come up with the best ideas that get startups off the ground and drive companies like Google and Apple.

In fact, anyone can learn how to generate more big ideas.

In their book, The Idea Hunter: How To Find The Best Ideas And Make Them Happen, Boston College Carroll School of Management Dean Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer, professor at Switzerland’s IMD business school, examine the world’s most successful thinkers and companies.

They found that “habits and behaviors are more important than sheer brain power, that it’s not the brightest who perform the best, but it’s people who have figured out how to really prosper in an idea-rich society,” Fischer said in an interview with Inc.

We’ve highlighted some of the best takeaways from the book.

1. Good ideas come to those whose “brains are open”

Sam Walton turned Walmart into one of the world’s largest corporations by constantly keeping his eyes open and searching for new ideas in his competitors’ stores. He spent a significant amount of his time traveling across the country to see what other people were doing.

“In a professional context, intellectual curiosity is basically an abiding interest in any and all matters that could improve the job you’re doing,” say Boynton and Fischer.

 

2. To come up with new ideas, look in new places

To come up with new ideas, look in new places

PR Newswire

Don’t look in the same places everyone else is — you need to discover what they’re missing.

Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Company known for Samuel Adams Boston Lager, came up with the idea for selling beer while talking to a stranger he met in a bar. The man told Koch that he liked imported beer even though it tasted spoiled, which led Koch to develop fresher-tasting, high-end beer.

In professional life, some of the best ideas will come from weak-tie individuals, whose conversational networks are different from ours. They may well have an entirely different perspective on a subject, one that expands our supply of knowledge and ideas.”

3. At the same time, know what you’re looking for

At the same time, know what you're looking for

Getty

This will help you sort through the rush of information that you’ll come across each day as you look for ideas. Assess your strengths and competencies. Pinpoint your interests.

Warren Buffet and his investment partner Charlie Munger differentiate themselves by seeking to understand the companies they invest in from a deeper perspective. They avoid stocks they don’t understand.

“[Having a focus] helps guide you to what you need to be learning and to the ideas you need to be getting. Buffet doesn’t have to scatter his valuable learning time across the market, because he know that certain sectors, such as high-tech, are not what he’s good at.”

 

4. Set aside time for learning and exploring

Set aside time for learning and exploring

Steve Kovach, Business Insider

Companies like Google have realized how important this is, by encouraging employees to devote one day a week to focus on creative projects (otherwise known as Google’s ‘20 Percent Time‘). This has resulted in new products like Google News.

“Breakthroughs happen when people attend to their professional curiosities and set aside time for deliberate learning. Dabble time is not wasted time. It is a seedbed of innovation, a habit that expands the store of knowledge.”

5. Keep track of your ideas, otherwise you’ll lose them

Most of us are probably familiar with coming up with a brilliant idea, then completely forgetting it the next day.

Thomas Edison noted his ideas and observations in more than 2,500 notebooks: “Edison wrote down everything he felt was worth jotting down, but he didn’t feel pressure to organize the fragments immediately or unite them into an idea right away. He let that process develop naturally over a period of days, months, years.”

 

6. Talk to other people about your ideas — especially those who see the world much differently than you

Talk to other people about your ideas — especially those who see the world much differently than you

Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider

Walt Disney once saw the renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski eating alone in a restaurant and decided to call him over to his table. Disney asked Stowoski what he thought of a musical piece he had just acquired the rights to, which eventually led to their collaboration on “Fantasia.”

Putting yourself in the line of fire of ideas is a pivotal step in the innovation process. Conversations are a primary means of stepping into that line, exposing yourself to the onslaught of ideas.”

 

7. Give your ideas time to develop. Sometimes it’s best to let them sit on the backburner for a while

Great ideas are usually the result of a combination of conversations, research, experience and time.

The Broadway musical “West Side Story” was originally written as a story revolving around Catholics and Jews, not Puerto Ricans and whites, as we know it today. But the creators quickly realized that Catholic-Jewish dueling was dying down as an issue and decided to put the project aside.

The idea came back to life when the composer and writer reunited six years later and a saw a newspaper headline about gang fights between California residents and Mexican immigrants in L.A.

“Whether you have a good idea, a bad idea, or maybe an odd notion that’s hard to assess at first, success will depend heavily on whether it’s put into a flow of other ideas.”

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