Finding ideas is, for some people, the hardest part. I used to feel that way… but that was before.
Today, I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum. Too many ideas, not enough time. How is that possible? In this article, I will go through some of the things I believe were key in becoming a creative thinker.
Creative thinking is the ability to look at things differently, and find new ways of solving problems.
Creative thinking isn’t something you know or don’t know how to do. It’s something you can train yourself to become good at. Being curious and interested in the problems you face is the best way to teach yourself to think creatively.
So when you face a problem, instead of thinking:
“This is annoying. It doesn’t work. It pisses me off. I don’t want to hear about it anymore.”
Try to think about things in a more positive way:
“Ok, this is badly done, but is there a way I could make it better? What would it take to reduce the friction I’m experiencing right now in using a tool/app/product/, in searching for an information or a service, or learning about something?
This is the kind of attitude that will guide your brain to analyze problems in a way that ultimately drives creative thoughts which, in some cases, can turn into brilliant ideas.
Another great way to get new ideas is to try new things. New often feels scary, but overcoming your fear of the unknown can lead to great rewards.
That’s where most of my ideas come from.
These new things you will try, you need to make sure you enjoy them in the first place. For instance, don’t start writing books and hope you’ll get an idea for a great tool for writers if you are not interested in writing books in the first place. Trust me, you will get bored and demotivated before getting the first idea.
Creative thinking is like going to the gym, at first you struggle to lift an empty bar. But if you keep at it long enough, you will end up lifting weights you never thought you’d be able to lift. Coming up with ideas is the same, forcing yourself to think differently about the problems you face will lead to potential solutions that can turn into great ideas.
Saving your ideas in a place you can go back to when you get new ones is also important. I personally keep a file full of bullet points and I keep adding to it whenever something new comes to my mind. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown idea with a bunch of features, a roadmap, a monetisation plan and all the rest of it. Sometimes it’s just a one-liner with a problem I faced and an hypothetical solution I thought about.
I use the word ‘hypothetical’ here because most of the time, the ideas I get are random and need a lot of validation.
Making sure you write things down is the best way to not forget about it. Forgetting ideas is very frustrating and sometimes also results in huge missed opportunities. Some ideas, once combined with other ideas, lead to the ‘aha moment’ where you know you have something worth pursuing. That’s why keeping track of everything you think about is key.
I’ve been there before. You get a new idea and the urge to start building kicks in. Have you been there too? It’s hard to resist, isn’t it?
If the below conversation hits home, trust me, let your rational brain win. At least at first!
Creative Brain: OMG, NEW IDEA ALERT! Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a tool for that? I need to build this now. It’s gonna be awesome!
Rational Brain: Hang on a second, Pal. Are you sure you want to potentially waste a huge amount of time on this? Have you thought about all of these things?
- Is the data needed to build it publicly available?
- Is it legal? Will this be approved by Apple/Google/…?
- Are you the only one having this problem or is it something a bigger audience faces regularly?
- Is this a problem people know they have or is it something that would make your life a tiny bit easier but nobody would actually pay for such a thing? - Has it been done before? Can you compete on that segment or will you waste time in fighting against huge companies that have tons of user acquisition budgets?
Personally, this is the rollercoaster of thoughts I always go through when I get new ideas.
By now, I’ve learned not to start sketching, designing or coding anything until I have thought about an idea, forgotten about it, thought about it again… several times. If something comes back to your mind back and again you might have something worth digging further into.
And by that, I do not mean start building. What I mean here is start answering the questions your rational brain is asking.
Once you’ve done that, if you still think your idea has legs, start building!
Until next time, happy hunting (for that next big idea).