How to Develop Ideas Productively

The drive to keep things interesting is one core business strength which comes with the goal of providing value.

When you keep looking for new ways to re-tool old concepts and current ideas you keep your brain flexible, your attitudes keen and you keep apace with the changing tides. You can innovate, evolve and thrive. To do this you need to be open to ideas: in receiving them, in connecting them and in generating them. New ideas means new life for a business, and you have to keep them flowing to keep the business going.

The goal here is to produce ideas of real value. Brainstorming can capture a lot of ideas from out of the blue and squeeze them out under pressure, but you have to filter out the viable ones from the non-viable, then the practical from the impractical.

Now think in images with this next part: The general advice it to let ideas flow. Going with that in mind, if you have writer’s block, that means your fountain of creativity may have run dry of ideas, or is stopped up in some way, and the natural flow ideas has been blocked.

Mind-mapping is a wonderful way to jump-start stalled creativity. We are a visual race, and imagery is one of the best ways we can set our imagination running smoothly again. Leave the serious edit-writing afterwards when you want to summarize or clarify what you mind-mapped, but giving yourself permission to draw and use stimulating colors and mediums in the process can slip off the automatic censor that can keep our best ideas from coming to light.

The method here is a very personal disciplined freedom. Think of it as your personal code.

For example, you can use different colors to symbolize different ideas. Depending on what each color means to you, you can connect the colors to particular subjects in a way that is personal (green for money, for example, or orange for pending, purple for creative ideas, etc.) This helps tickle the neurons into making multiple connections. If music helps you think better, set up your playlist before you mind-map.

The more you learn to do, the more you can do.
Cross-pollination is also a good way to strengthen your ability to generate valuable ideas. If you have polished your skills among different fields of work, or as an example, leaned to speak in different languages, you train your brain to be able to process different kinds of information better, and that carries skills over.

Think of being fluent in more than one language. Just from the exposure to a second, third or even fourth (and so on) culture, the information and experience you can access and relate to are multiplied. Connect all these things in your head and you have a unique matrix of knowledge through which you can express your creativity.

The brain isn’t a muscle, but still, the more you work it, the more it adapts to what you demand of it. Scientists call it neuroplasticity. When you work with other people and do a brainstorming session, it isn’t like you’re sending out ideas to fight it out in an arena until only one survives. Build off one another’s suggestions and informed critiques.

At times that means relinquishing a beloved idea that wouldn’t really get off the ground at this time. At others it would mean ending up with a radically different result that came from the energy and input of the group.


For free-lancers and entrepreneurs one major challenge that pops up over and over is how to handle the clash of ideas between, say, clients ideas, or the gap between what you believe is a valuable product and what market expectations set. Inside the work organization, that issue asks us to exercise diplomacy and tact for important reasons: when you work in a group you do not want to alienate or insult people by letting them feel that their ideas aren’t good enough or don’t fit, and you also want to use the group’s efforts to provide a valuable end result. Go towards the goal by focusing on the good people behind the lack-luster ideas and helping them stretch-out and keep faith that you all will be able to get the best results from your efforts.


Part of creative collaboration is the work that ends up in the slush pile –sub-par drafts, off-course doodling and half-baked ideas… being messy is part of the creative process. It’s like that joke about the little boy who, upon seeing a pile of horse droppings, began digging delightedly because “With all this manure there must be a pony in here somewhere!'”

Hidden in ideas that won’t make it are parts of ideas that could. If you expect to come up with perfect ideas right off the bat, you’re already crippled at the starting gate. Creativity isn’t about perfection, it’s about generation. It’s like crude oil–the refining comes later. And it’s a group effort:

Focus on the purpose, not the players.
Make a safe place for people to offer their ideas; much of the difficulty in coming up with creative ideas is that we self-censor so much: “Aww, it’ll never fly. That won’t work. It’ stupid to even suggest that.” If we have to fight ourselves to express our own ideas, how much can we even get out if we shoot ourselves down?

Relax, unclench, it’s alright to get it wrong.
Yes, it is a fact that there will be some bad ideas that will go on the table– it’s part of the warming-up. Don’t look at the bad ideas as a dead end, though. Examine the context behind their inception. The intent may still be sound even if the execution went awry.

Build up, not tear down.
Good planning includes giving enough time to refine and produce quality results. Just as you allow yourself and your people to be imperfect in the creative process, trust that the process will give up something good. Don’t force it.

The environment for creative processing, conceptualization, idea generation and refining can’t happen in a vacuum. There must be a clear goal in mind, a challenge that needs to be solved. The people involved must engage in the problem-solving process and commit to its success, and they need to be able to make mistakes and wrong turns along the way without being censured or punished for it. With these things in mind, the next time you need to come up with good ideas should go much easier.

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