“To be fully free to create, we must first find the courage and willingness to let go:

Let go of the strategies that have worked for us in the past…

Let go of our biases, the foundation of our illusions…

Let go of our grievances, the root source of our victimhood…

Let go of our so-often-denied fear of being found unlovable.”

― Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

Great ideas are rare. People wish they could sit down, think and pop, the next billion dollar idea! And obviously, it doesn’t work like that, because if it did, we would all have good ideas. The biggest obstacle to creating great ideas is the expectation of outcomes. Before we allow ourselves to explore, we give our mind a little rule: “Good ideas only!” And guess what, we become afraid of experimenting, creating or sounding dumb. It’s time to unlearn some things and have a mindset shift, which will not only let you have better ideas, but to make it a fun practice. This is a process. You have to trust the process!

Let your mind wander. 

It’s time to go counter-culture. You need to let your mind wander. Let go of a goal or visualized outcome and be alone, quiet by yourself. When do your ideas come to you? Is it on run? On your commute? Meditating? Cooking? Wherever you find your mind wandering, label that time as ideation time, and not ideation time to create a billion dollar business, but just ideation time. 

Keep an ideation journal. 

This journal is personal and for your eyes only! Scribble in it. Write a single idea down. Write just a word down! Don’t be afraid to write half ideas. This is where your ideas will live. There are not bad ideas… in your journal! Sometimes revisiting ideas and tweaking them can make them brilliant ideas! 

Ask why… a lot! 

What’s a typical problem you run into? What’s something that bothers? Is there a product or service that already exists or is there an opportunity here? The best place to find ideas is in problems you are already trying to solve! If you have this problem, guaranteed someone else has it as well. 

Vetting your Idea

Now, once you have a list of ideas after a month of just letting your mind wander, it’s time to prioritize your list! Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What’s possible for me right now? 
  • Do I have the money or budget for this? 
  • Do I have the time right now? Is there a way for me to make time for this? 
  • Is there a need for this? 
  • Am I excited about this idea? 

The key thing here is that you probably won’t have all of these questions align for you. Are there a few things that fall short, but you will still be able to develop your idea? For me, the most important things I need to know is that I need to be excited about the idea and is there a need for this? The other things can work itself out. 

Establish a Difference 

Most importantly, is your idea unique? Research the top three competitors you probably would have with your idea and see how they price things, what makes them different and how your idea is different then there’s. If you can’t establish a difference, then your idea will most likely not take off. 

Don’t Share Your Idea… Just Yet!

Once you go through these five points and you have an awesome idea, the first thing you’re going to want to do is share it with people. DO NOT. It’s important for your ideas to “cook,” to let them sit with you and for you develop it even further. Your friends and family will guaranteed give you a reason why your idea is bad and it will dampen your spirits immediately. You’ll be tempted to, but it’s better for you to only share your idea with other entrepreneurs or people who have started businesses. They understand what this process is like and can give healthy feedback. 

Ideation is a practice, a muscle and a skill. You’ll know when you’re good at ideation when you have a journal full of bad ideas. One day, you’ll have one fantastic idea and the world will have to be ready for it!