In some ways ‘Idea’ is a funny word

Ideas come in many forms. There are three classic dictionary definitions. Let’s use Brexit as a vehicle for demonstrating how they differ.

  • Philosophy or belief. eg ‘Brexit: our IDEA is that Britain should leave the EU’
  • Plan of action. eg ‘The IDEA is for us to hold a referendum asking the British people whether they want us to leave the EU’
  • A pure concept / organising thought. eg ‘Independence from foreign influence and control is a very important IDEA for us’

When we use the word, we might mean slightly different things:

  • A unit of creativity. eg ‘We are working on three IDEAS’
  • “Something interesting in my head”. eg ‘An IDEA occurred to me when I woke up this morning’
  • An innovation or invention. eg ‘John Logie Baird is recognised as the first person to make the IDEA of television work’

Idea Brain

We all have an ‘Idea Brain’. I don’t mean the amygdala, the pre-frontal cortex, or whatever. I’m just talking about the part of the brain that each of us uses to come up with ideas.

In the book there is plenty of practical advice on how each of us can learn to use our Idea Brain, both to generate original ideas and as a creative contributor working with friends and colleagues.

Some of the cleverest operators, commentators, teachers and advisers on the planet have written about ideas.

I have done my best to pick the best bits and aim you in the right direction by highlighting more authors and titles for you to explore. As well as the great and good, there are fascinating contributions from clever visionaries, whose names are not yet in the public eye, but undoubtedly will be one day.

Encouraging more people to make more ideas is my goal. And the process starts with the Idea Brain.

Switch on the Idea Brain

  • Shut your eyes. Imagine you are waking from sleep.
  • Breathe deeply and open your eyes
  • Feel as if you are opening your Idea Brain at the same time
  • Switch off your autopilot
  • Concentrate and get in the zone
  • All of us – not just ‘creatives’ and ‘experts’ – have the ability to come up with ideas. Most successful ideas come from the connections we make between new thoughts and stimuli and what we already have stored. It is the Idea Brain that we use to make these connections. Knowing it’s there, and that it’s a facility we can and must use, is the first step.

Here are four more top tips, illustrated with cartoons

Have a conversation with yourself

  • Don’t feel that you’re behaving oddly!
  • Literally talk to yourself, ask yourself questions, and if necessary have a debate
  • It’s a rehearsal for sharing ideas further down the line
  • Use these conversations to make sure you have understood the challenge, the complexities of the problem, and mastered the brief
  • Try to leave your prejudices behind – and get the obvious out of your head
  • Trust your instincts

Turn off your filtering system

  • This is the moment you are opening up to new facts, stimuli, whatever
  • Don’t allow your built-in filtering system to slow down these new inputs
  • Or just do less filtering
  • When you’re accessing the brain’s storage system AND trying to make connections, the last thing you need are filters saying ‘don’t go there’

Switch from problem to problem

  • Don’t get stuck with trying to solve one problem – however big and challenging
  • Have a go at tackling two, three or more problems at once – and switch between them
  • It won’t reduce the effectiveness of your generating ideas and solutions. Quite the reverse
  • Quite often the act of solving something relatively simple can free up your Idea Brain to return to the ‘big one’ with good effect

Go to sleep fast. Wake up slowly

  • This a critical technique to learn
  • We are all busy, and most of us worry a lot. So we tend to collapse into bed exhausted and then fail to sleep because we are still agonising over all the unresolved issues of the day
  • And after a fitful night, we jump out of bed – still tired – as soon as the alarm goes
  • This makes no sense! Much better to clear the brain, and try to get to sleep as quickly as possible
  • Your idea brain will have been processing through the night
  • And in the morning, give yourself time to review what your clever brain has been up to, before making a gentle start to what should be a terrific day
  • Don’t be surprised if you wake up to excellent solutions and ideas.
Invest in The Very Idea.