If creativity is essential for success these days, then we must become profligate with ideas. On his blog, entrepreneur James Altucher shares these ideas for becoming an idea machine:
Capture fresh thoughts
Ideas floating about in your brain, uncaptured, will never get you anywhere. So take time every day to write down 10 new ideas. They can be on anything. "It doesn't matter if they are business ideas, book ideas, ideas for surprising your spouse in bed, ideas for what you should do if you are arrested for shoplifting, ideas for how to make a better tennis racquet, anything you want. The key is that it has to be 10 or more," Mr. Altucher declares. "You want your brain to sweat."
Don't limit yourself to ideas you can put into practice today – or ever. It can be helpful to list 10 ideas too big for you to carry out, some perhaps not even possible at all, just for the value of outlining the notion. He stresses that you never have to look at these ideas again. The purpose is not to come up with a good idea but just to have thousands of ideas over time.
Activate new parts of your brain
Mr. Altucher recounts taking a watercolour class with his wife. He wasn't all that great at it, but his brain felt terrific, because he was diversifying, trying something new.
Dip into four books a day
Every day, read some chapters from or skim books on four different topics, including some issues you know nothing about (he cites a genetic engineering book he explored recently).
Ease up on yourself
Make sure that as you play with ideas, you limit the pressure on yourself. You should not have to feel that every seed you bury will grow into a lush plant. That will just set you up for disappointment and burnout.
Shake up your day
He has a precise routine every day, starting with reading and writing, and continuing through meetings and meals. But sometimes when he needs to rejuvenate, he'll spice it up with something different – perhaps a walk first thing in the morning instead of reading, or sleeping in four-hour shifts instead of eight hours. Shaking up the conscious mind allows the unconscious to be freed, and good ideas can emerge.
Recall childhood passions
Years ago, you had some interests as a child that consumed you but are now gone from your life. Try to recall them, write them on a list, and think about what you knew – still know – about them. The more, different notions at play in your mind increases the chances of two different thoughts cross-fertilizing into a new passion or idea.
Tickle your brain
Mr. Altucher recalls how he was advised to turn off his computer to be creative. That might be true. But so might the reverse. "With the entire world of knowledge at our fingertips it sometimes is fun to get sucked down the rabbit hole like Alice and drift around in Wonderland," he writes. "It tickles the brain and lights things up that may have been dormant."
Special to The Globe and Mail
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter