If you work in a creative industry or simply want help coming up with new and exciting ideas, you’ve come to the right place.
I’m going to show you 25 useful strategies for coming up with bright and bold new ideas.
Whether it’s for business or your personal life or any other area, this list will have you crackling with creativity in no time.
How to come up with new ideas: 15 useful tips
Let’s start with the very basics.
No matter why you are trying to come up with ideas, here are 15 great ways to do so.
1) Dive right in
The first tip for how to come up with new ideas is to dive right into the subject or areas you’re interested in.
If you have a passion for travel, go to a place you’ve always wanted to go and look around.
What ideas does it give you for food, music, starting a company, social connections, technology, travel improvement or maybe starting an e-commerce company engaged in travel?
If you want to be a comedian, watch as much comedy as you can and then have a couple of drinks and go try standup.
2) Play ‘what if’
The what-if game is simple:
You just think of how things would be “if” a given thing was true.
A few examples?
What if relationships could be crowd-sourced and voted on by fans about whether to continue or not? (OK, terrible idea).
What if the cost of insulin could be massively brought down through some kind of legislation?
What if deforestation could be turned around by making wood out of a new kind of substance?
“I taught myself how to be creative.
“I learned to play simple games like Mix and Match, which is where you bring two completely different ideas together to create something new.
“I learned to ask myself, ‘What if?’”
3) Begin planning out your life path
What are you doing with your life?
I write about self-development, relationships and geopolitics on the internet.
That involves having many ideas. I’m also a copyeditor who helps people edit and improve their books.
Finding my life path wasn’t easy, especially learning to convert it into money, but a big part of my success in it came from taking part in a program called Life Journal.
This online course is led by highly-successful life coach and teacher Jeanette Brown.
She showed me how I was actually going around in circles and pouring energy into my goals without being clear enough on the steps to achieve them.
Jeanette showed me a method for gaining much more confidence about my career and personal decision-making and learning how to generate ideas rapidly that would inspire me to achieve my next goals.
I highly recommend this course!
4) Look at how you could improve something that already exists
What is something that already exists that you think could be improved?
An idea I have that comes to mind is packaging in supermarkets and stores.
Of course, the inventors of bulk food tried to get around this by introducing a system where people could choose how much to buy and use less packaging for it.
But what if we could develop an even more efficient system?
Would there be some way drones could be involved?
What about packaging or cases that are fully biodegradable but easy to make? Is there a material of that kind that exists?
Look at something that already exists and think about how it could be made even better.
Then begin hitting it from every possible angle.
5) Bust up your assumptions
This is what I call the BUYA process.
Begin to challenge things you always assumed were true or obvious. For example, have you always assumed going to the dentist was stressful for most people like it is for you?
Understand new ways of looking at a subject you’re familiar with. Dentist offices can be expanded into much more relaxing areas, or renovated and installed with entertainment systems that help customers feel good and stress less about their appointment.
You’re only as good as your last idea. What was your last idea and how did it turn out? What can you learn this time from what went wrong or right last time?
Assume your idea can always use new tweaks. What if the dentist’s office hired receptionists who were comedians to help loosen up the client? Would that be too much or would it be hilarious?
6) Meet people from all walks of life
Most of my best ideas have come from meeting people and talking to people.
In many situations, I ended up thinking of some business or personal idea while speaking with a stranger, an old friend, or somebody who was randomly in my life at one time or another.
Meeting people from all walks of life and trying to connect with them is an ideal way to begin generating effective and exciting new ideas.
What do others care about?
What do they spend money on?
What keeps them up at night?
How could these things be innovated. Let the ideas roll!
7) What rules are limiting you?
How do you know who’s really in charge?
Look at who is able to break their own rules.
This really holds true:
For example, if you go to a bank at 10 pm at night, most of its operations and currency exchange will be closed, as it also will be online.
However, this bank itself is selling currencies on foreign exchange in a 24-hour cycle in which the client is unable to participate.
Or take a national government: they will fine the hell out of someone for dodging taxes, yet allow large monopolies like Mcdonald’s and Microsoft to dodge taxes by incorporating in tax havens and using various accounting loopholes.
The truth is that most of us are following many rules we rarely even think of.
Imagine a few of these rules would be gone. How would that change things?
Now tell me your idea. If I agree with it I’ll endorse you to run for political office!
8) Try reverse brainstorming
If you haven’t heard of reverse brainstorming, I highly recommend checking it out.
Basically, think of a subject, item, or idea. Then try to make it as inconvenient, annoying, costly, and frustrating as possible.
For example, imagine you were trying to design a new car that was extremely heavy, bad on fuel, ugly, loud, dangerous, and hard to source parts for.
Write down all the reasons why. Now reverse engineer them to come up with more ideas about how to build an amazing, cost-effective, beautiful car by doing the opposite of your bad ideas.
9) Get out of the box
Many of us live in mental and social boxes.
We surround ourselves with people who agree with us and make us comfortable.
We lie to ourselves and sell ourselves a version of who we are based on our outer labels.
But there’s still an uneasy feeling inside, isn’t there?
Is this really my life? Am I really this label?
The truth is you’re so much more.
Our consciousness and our organism itself continue a wealth of wisdom and power inside it if we can learn to tap into it and increase our consciousness and vitality.
I learned this (and much more) from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandé. In this excellent free video, Rudá explains how you can lift the mental chains and get back to the core of your being.
A word of caution – Rudá isn’t your typical shaman and he’s not here to say silly words or wave a magic wand.
He’s all about getting to the true reality about how the world works and the emotions – both difficult and pleasurable – that keep us trapped and sometimes have the potential to free us.
10) Study great ideas of the past
How did people in the past come up with some of their best ideas?
Look at Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Santos Dumont… Anyone you want!
These people made a mark in history and came up with amazing ideas.
You’ll find they were usually highly observant and curious. Their minds just wouldn’t stop trying to find the truth and break barriers.
This eventually led to huge breakthroughs!
11) Get fictional
As someone who mainly reads non-fiction, I’ve found this advice very helpful:
Start dipping your toe back into reading fiction.
You’ll find that it stimulates your mental creativity and helps you rebuild a vibrant and intense imagination.
More and more ideas will begin to come to you.
“But several years ago, I started again reading fiction and histories.
These stories really got me out of my daily headspace and activated my idea generator.”
12) Practice quantity over quality
One of the things that holds many people back from how to come up with new ideas, is that they self-censor too much.
“Oh that idea’s stupid, forget it!”
You need to silence or at least temporarily mute this harsh inner critic.
Many of the best ideas in history come at the point that someone is sort of lazily musing over things, half asleep or thinking that they’ve hit a wall.
Suddenly you’re thinking…
Wait, what if there could be a huge wall with toeholds on it as a way for people to practice mountain climbing?
Aren’t you glad somebody thought of that? I find climbing walls very cool, so I am!
13) Start journaling
Getting more in touch with your own life and your own subconscious is one of the best ways to generate amazing ideas.
If you want to know how to come up with new ideas, start journaling.
It doesn’t have to be very long or in-depth.
Write down a short summary of your day plus three emotions you felt that day and why.
You’ll find that ideas about improving your life or the lives of others begin to come to you.
14) What do people keep asking you for?
Another of the key ways to start coming up with relevant and powerful ideas is to look at what people keep asking you for.
In my case I’ve noticed a common trend almost everywhere I go:
People express a need for money and work.
That’s why one of my ideas is to eventually create an agency that hires writers and creative workers including documentary makers and artists to work on projects that myself and a board find useful or helpful to society.
In such a way, I hope to fulfill my own interests while also exploring the idea I have to fulfill an existing need in many people to find work.
What about you? What do you find people around you talk about a lot?
Maybe it’s their lack of time to cook? How about starting a catering business for healthy foods?
15) Become an astute observer
Many of the best ideas come out of quiet observation.
People watching, taking a stroll through the forest, watching what seems to make someone wish to buy something or not, looking at common elements of successful relationships.
Becoming an astute observer is all about having patience and paying attention to details.
You’ll observe many subtle things that give you ideas about your business and personal life.
You’ll also find that the more you observe the more there is to observe! Life is certainly a fascinating and diverse puzzle.
Let’s get creative
The key to idea generation is letting your mind roam free while being highly observant.
Allow yourself permission to dream, then capture those dreams and see which of them can be brought down into the real world.
If you’re not sure whether an idea has any value, ask a friend or a trusted confidante.
You may find that you’re smarter than you realized and that your creativity has just been waiting to be unleashed.
Remember that in order to get out of the box, you sometimes have to take a leap of faith.