Why is it so hard to generate out-of-the-box ideas?
How does our brain work?
How do we push past and out of the small world of things we know and find the bigger, broader possibilities?
Chains of Associations
Our brains work through chains of associations. These chains are based on our past experiences – like when we think of dogs, we might think of cats. Or for those of us in Canada, when we think of bad weather, we probably think of snow and ice, and when we think of snow and ice, we may think of traffic problems.
Chains of associations are efficient, because they help us to move quickly from analysis to action. Although chains of associations have huge benefits, they also carry costs. They can limit our ability to think broadly. We don’t question assumptions as quickly, we jump to conclusions faster, and we create barriers to different ways of thinking about a particular situation.
There are things we can do to battle against those fixed associations and think “outside the box.”
Thinking Outside the Box
Work with other people who think differently than us
Try to get as many ideas as possible
Don’t be afraid to keep trying
How to Brainstorm Effectively
Accessible Alternative Exercise
Make sure you’ve watched the video above to learn more about Techniques 1 to 3, before moving on.
Technique 4: Organize and prioritize your ideas.
Once you’ve gathered a lot of different ideas, you’ll need to then work on prioritizing and organizing them. The best way to do this is to first divide your ideas into these three “buckets”:
- Ideas that inspire me
- Ideas that could work in a year
- Ideas that could work in the future
You could use sticky notes on a large sheet of paper to make it easy to move your ideas around. Draw a column for each of the three “buckets.” Then, write each brainstormed idea on a new sticky note, and move them around on the paper to organize them into the relevant “bucket.”
Next, try to narrow down your ideas by picking your top 10 best ideas. An easy way to do this is to rate your ideas using the following three criteria:
- How new or different is the idea?
- How well does it/might it meet your main customer need?
- How easy is it to implement?
See the brainstorming worksheet in Over to You for an easy way to do this.
The more ideas you can generate, without judgement or fear, but while still thinking about your customer, the more you’ll build a solid foundation for your business.