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create new ideas with ease

Last week, I introduced my concept of smart repetitions – repeats that give you better results and not insanity. Part of the concept was recognising when to change how you perform those repeats. Is that the hard part of being smart? I’m not sure it is.

Knowing that enough is enough might be possible to recognise without too much strife. You practice, you focus, you keep trying and the results don’t change. What next? You might need to review, tweak and try again. But what if you need a spark, a flash, an “a-ha” of a brand new way to get you achieving? Now I can feel the pain creeping in.

There are two important steps to create new ideas and if you want to minimise the pain, do them in this order:

  1. Create new ideas
  2. Evaluate all those ideas


  1. Create one idea
  2. Evaluate it
  3. Create another
  4. Evaluate it

Ermmm no smart repeat there! The reason I say that is by switching back and forth, you can get disheartened and put off by the black hat of critiquing then switching back to blue sky creativity. Keep your energy and pace high by sticking to creation where everything is valid, then evaluation where you can bin off duff ideas.

I want to focus on how to create new ideas in this b-mail, so here’s a couple of my favourite ways to go wild creating new ideas:


I love these – if you ever pop by my desk, you’ll find these as to-do lists, course structures, lesson plans AND for loosening up my thinking on next steps. On one page, you get the big overview stuff and the nitty gritty details. Never done one before? Learn how straight from the master, Tony Buzan here.

My top tips are be specific with the term in the centre as your stimuli, use the biggest paper you can find with lots of colours and don’t get hung up on spacing or line size and heck, if you need to draw a big ol’ arrow from one idea to another, do it. (ooowww I can hear purist mind-mappers groaning; it’s what works for me – I want the ideas not a perfect process).

One branch might be word association, one might be for the obvious solutions, one might be limitless cash options, one free options, one for time unrestricted or restricted and so on….you’ll get stacks of ideas start popping out in no time.

What would ……… do?

Simply insert a name, get into their heads and jot down what actions, approaches or moves they would make or are making to achieve your desired results.

I like to insert my goddaughter’s name and do it as a child, or a much respected peer or professional I admire or – and this is where the real fun starts! – by choosing a curveball of a person. When doing my branding, I did it as if I were the marketing guru at Sweaty Betty, Virgin and moo.com. For course content, I channel my inner favourite teachers from uni and college.

Why does this work? You get to step out of “being you”, with the boundaries and constraints that can sometimes bring. Instead you can immerse yourself in being Lady Gaga, Sherlock Holmes or JK Rowling and how they’d tackle your challenge.

Last one…..a true golden oldie….

Ask someone

Who’s already where you want to be? Who’s got a perspective on your goal? Who’s getting better results? Who’s invested in you achieving your goals? Friend, partner, guru, business, academic, anyone who can stretch your ideas list.

How do you get your question to them? Friends, family and personal connections aside, try these:

Email them through LinkedIn or their website’s contact page, offer a coffee in exchange for picking their brains, post a question on the website, blog or Facebook page, send them a tweet, go to an event they’ll be at, send them a postcard with your question and contact details, join online groups or masterminds, reply to their newsletter……..people are pretty “contactable” these days; don’t forget Google can often track them down too.

My advice is to be polite and be brave. Most people are happy to respond to genuine questions and to share how they got somewhere or what they did that made all the difference. You’ll find this can also ping off additional ideas in your mind.

Has that got your creative juices going? Ready to create new ideas? Hope so! Of course, these work for coming up with your initial idea too and not just the subsequent ones.

Do you use another method or technique to kick start your idea generation? Please share them in the comments, so we can all try them out! Feel free to post links to good resources, experts or inspirations too. Play along and help build the list and I’ll put together a download so you’ll have them all in one place to refer to when the need arises!

  • Rachel

    Yes, I definitely do some of the things you’ve mentioned.

    I used to work with someone who was calm, super logical and scientific in her approach to everything. In contrast I can sometimes be a little “dive in at the deep end” in my approach to very technical challenges, so I make myself stop for a moment and ask “What would Bethany do?” I know that I can think in that calm and logical way too, but it doesn’t always come quite as naturally as I’d like.

    I also think theres something to be said for the ideas you come up with when you’re not trying to think of them – when I’m walking to work or going round the supermarket. Is it something to do with giving your brain a quick breather?

    • Sarae

      Hello Rachel,
      Nice use of “what would Bethany do?” – great pick: someone who you admire AND importantly, does it differently to you.

      You’re spot on about ideas coming when you’re doing something that is both relaxing and fun. Exercise, a shower, sleep, baking and the like all released a flush of dopamine, which creates alpha waves in your brain. These boost your creativity and the ideas start coming!

      It can also be due to the distraction – your focus moves to something else, but your brain keeps ticking over your challenge in the background.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Grace

    At work, I tend to use the big whiteboard in my office, all the different colored markers I can get my hands in and start jotting words down. Some make no sense (except to me) but at times that one keyword drives a whole raft of ideas in process enhancements and how to implement. If I’m really stuck, google helps as generally my work problem isn’t unique.
    With my personal life, well that’s a bit different! Lots of thoughts and not a lot of jotting down which leads to not following through. Guess I need help??

    • Sarae

      Grace, you raise a really key point – we often do things differently at work and in play. Wonder what drives that for you? Deadlines? The boss? Customers? Priorities?

      And yes, you gotta love the Google……do you search by keywords, themes, people or businesses?

  • grace

    Hi Sarae, I think all of those are drivers – and in no particular order of importance. With google I search keywords mainly then themes ie: best practice statutory reporting and take it from there. Also use my college/course books for reference.
    This year, I want to make improvements in my ‘at play’ ideas.

  • Suzanne Doyle

    I get out of the office and sit in a coffee shop and try and think about what I want to achieve in a day, in a week, in a year…where do I want to be and how will I get there. Also if you are in a group situation and doing lots of ideastorming with flipcharts or post it notes…keep going until you all feel that your ideas have dried up and generally you will then come up with more and it’s often those ones which are the real good ideas. The ones that are deep inside us all not the ones on the surface which are easy to think about! Just read this: 1) Write down on top of your paper a topic that you want fresh ideas for. 2) Start your timer and start writing ANYTHING that comes to your mind. Even ideas that might seem silly or stupid. If you really don’t have anything, just continue to write “I don’t know, I don’t know”. You will eventually come up with something. The idea here is to not stop and keep your creative flow going. 3) As you begin to slow down start reviewing what you have just written. Highlight interesting ideas with a highlighter. You might find that something previously written needs more explanation or provides you with a new idea. 4) When you are completely done organize the best ideas. You can use sticky notes, Microsoft Word to type out your ideas or any other method you wish. Hope that helps Suzanne

    • Sarae

      Suzanne, you just discovered a form of brain writing. You might remember the school game where someone drew a head and folded the paper down, the next person drew shoulders and folded, next person the torso and fold, then hips, legs, feet – until you got a crazy looking creature!
      If you apply this to brain writing without the fold. The first person puts down their ideas and passes to their neighbour, who adds their idea and passes to their neighbour and so on. You either build and grow an idea or move laterally to a new or related idea.
      Makes a change to all crowding the flipchart and shouting out! Try it out!

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