It is surprising how often I am told ‘I just don’t have the creative gene,’ as though some of us are creative and others are not. Let me dispel an important myth, here and now. Being creative is not an exclusive domain of a ‘lucky few’ or an inherited ability.
Yes, for some, there seems to be a preference for creating new ideas (though, often, they envy those who can put those ideas into action and take them through to completion). But everyone has a creative side to them, if only they can find a way to unlock that aspect of their own mind.
So, let me share with you variations on a simple technique which, if you’ve ever worked in a large organisation, you have probably heard of:
Starting with first principles, brainstorming is about getting any and every idea around a specific topic or challenge out of your brain and onto a piece of paper (or some other recording method). The most important principle here is that no idea should be discarded. If the idea of doing a 60-second networking pitch wearing a silly hat and ringing a bell suddenly strikes you, don’t tell yourself “that’s silly.” Note it down and move on. If you want to write a book about your area of expertise, avoid telling yourself, “Too hard.” It goes on the page.
It can also help to avoid writing in lists. Scatter the ideas about the page – sorting them out or organising them comes later. The more random they are, the more your brain is open to creative leaps. That is where great ideas come from.
A few methods to use for brainstorming
- The simple brainstorm – grab a blank piece of paper and write. Write anything and everything that occurs to you (including “I can’t think of anything to write” – how do you suppose this blogging series came about?).
- Lie down – not to just have a snooze! But lying down boosts your creativity. It is a brainstorming technique. It is worth having a way of recording the ideas (pen and paper isn’t always practical, since you are lying down – so maybe use the voice recorder on your phone). Lie down and think “What great ideas can I come up with for content?” Then just contemplate that, noting down anything that comes to you.
- Random stimulus – this method uses random words or images to trigger new ideas. Words are easier, because you can simply open the dictionary at a random page and see where it lands each time. Or you can get some picture cards (often sold as vocabulary builders for foreign language students). Pick a card and see what ideas come up. Note them down.
- Hero stimulus – this is similar. Choose a superhero or figure you admire. What would they want to know about your product or service? How might it help them? When might they want to use it?
Time to organise
Once you have a large range of ideas: crazy, fun, whacky, brilliant and downright ridiculous, you can organise them. Group ones that might go together as a series. Which appeal to what audiences, which are ready to write now, and which need more thinking about and so on.
Even as you do this, you may well find that other ideas strike you – so add them as you go along. Which is great – because now you are building on initial ideas with a more objective mind. That mix of the impulsive and rational is where the best ideas come from.
To get a better idea on how to generate great content ideas and turn them into working content for you, take a look at our online course Demystifying Content.