4 Ways To Trigger Creative Ideas

by | Motivation

It’s easy to get stuck in ruts when looking for new ideas. Sometimes it’s tempting to seek inspiration in the same places over and over again simply because they’ve worked in the past. But as we often talk about here in AC world, to experience “creative accidents” you need to develop the habit of regularly putting yourself in dangerous intersections.

Need an insight now, but the juices aren’t flowing? Here are a few places I’ve personally found especially effective in triggering new creative insights.

The Local Bookstore

They still exist? Sure! While it’s nice to have access via ebook readers to any book in less than a minute, online shops cannot compare to the stimulus-rich environment of a real life brick-and-mortar bookstore. I like to peruse topics and sections that have little to do with the problem I’m trying to solve and see if inspiration strikes. This sometimes happens from book titles, or from cover designs, or even from the unique groupings of titles that bookstores sometimes put on a table display.

If you have the luxury of getting out of the office, I recommend taking about an hour – with your most pressing problem top of mind – to peruse your local bookstore and see what it sparks.

A Good Flick

Just a way to kill a few hours? No way. Movies can also be a good source of narrative, motive and escape. More than once I’ve found my mind wandering during a movie because a new thought or idea was sparked by the dialogue or location. I’ve also left in the middle of a movie to make an urgent call to set things in motion for a new initiative.

By ceasing the act of staring at the problem and giving your mind a bit of time to decompress and experience something new, beautiful serendipity often appears. (And believe it or not, though they’re not my personal preference,sometimes silly comedies work best as they let you unwind and laugh a bit.)

City Walk

It can be tempting to keep your head down and avoid eye contact when navigating the city streets, but by playing “tourist” (a dangerous game, I know) you can see a lot that may otherwise go unnoticed. Make a game of looking for things that seem out of place, or that you’ve not noticed before. Be conscious of your surroundings. Your mind is wired to weed out irrelevant information to prevent stimulus overload, so you’ll need to be mindful of potential serendipity.

Keep your head up, bring your notebook, and don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation.

Dollar Stores / Discount Outlets

A repository of junk nobody wants? Maybe, but you can often find interesting product ideas and new ways of thinking about messaging by perusing discount shops and outlet stores. You’ll encounter products that you don’t often see on the shelves of most stores, some of them a little off-beat and priced to move. This can also be a great place to purchase inspiration and stimulus for team idea sessions.

As a bonus exercise, take your entire team to a dollar store and give each person a budget of $3 to purchase something to inspire new thoughts for a project. Bring the items back to the office and use them to generate ideas for your work.

Again, these are just a few methods I’ve used over and over to prevent staring at the problem and hoping a solution will appear syndrome.

Add some to the list! Where do you look for ideas when you need them?

Todd Henry

Todd Henry

Positioning himself as an “arms dealer for the creative revolution”, Todd Henry teaches leaders and organizations how to establish practices that lead to everyday brilliance. He is the author of five books (The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, Louder Than Words, Herding Tigers, The Motivation Code) which have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and he speaks and consults across dozens of industries on creativity, leadership, and passion for work.


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