How to Generate Ideas

Let’s say you have a problem to solve or you want to create something. What you are dealing with in these cases is a creative process that doesn’t follow an algorithm. It’s completely non-linear, meaning that you cannot follow certain steps to find a creative solution or idea.

Often times, the idea just pops up when you least expect it.

Even though this creative process is unpredictable, there’s a method you can use to flood your mind with great ideas and increase your chances of finding a creative solution.

This method is based on how your conscious and subconscious mind operate.

Your conscious mind is great at receiving chunks of information logically. Your conscious mind is specialized in gathering pieces of jigsaw puzzle.

However, having limited capacity, your conscious mind can only gather small pieces of information. It cannot put these pieces together effectively, especially if the connection between pieces are multidimensional.

That’s where your subconscious mind comes into the picture. Your subconscious mind can establish multidimensional connections between disparate facts and build the overall picture. Your subconscious mind is the one that puts the pieces together and solves the jigsaw puzzle.

Now, that you know the role of your conscious and subconscious mind in the creative process, the question is:

How can you maximize the effectiveness of your conscious and subconscious mind in what they do?

Your conscious mind’s job is to gather information, and so it operates best when you aggressively and excitedly gather every piece of information that you can get your hands on about the subject of your problem.

Your subconscious mind, on the other hand, works best when left alone. Once the information is gathered, the subconscious mind should be left alone without any distractions from external signals to work on establishing connections.

Once the conscious mind has gathered the ingredients, it should leave the kitchen and let the subconscious mind do the cooking.

So how’s that done?

Here’s the recipe…

When you want to come up with a great idea related to a topic, first gather all pieces of information about the topic that you can get your hands on. Do not try to make any connections or reach any conclusions at this point. Just keep collecting information. That’s when stimulated states of mind are beneficial (grab that cup of coffee!).

After collecting large amount of information about the topic, you should have periods of time that you do the opposite, meaning that you cut off the flow of external information and let your mind deliberate. That’s when you would like to be in a state of relaxation (lay off the coffee!). That’s when your subconscious mind is working.

Then repeat.

So the iterative process is: gather information, relax, repeat.

During this repeated process, you are bound to come across many great ideas.

Do not underestimate the importance of deliberation part. It’s very important that you unplug and detach from the subject for a period of time, so your subconscious mind can make connections. You can accomplish that by engaging in fun and unrelated activities, relaxing or meditating, or simply sleeping (sleep on it!).

Summary:

Your conscious and subconscious mind play important roles in the creative process. They operate in different ways though. Your conscious mind needs to be stimulated and gather pieces of information. Your subconscious mind needs relaxation to paint the big picture for you and come up with great ideas. Follow the gather-relax-repeat method and you are bound to generate many great ideas.

Dr. Eric Amidi