6 Ways to Spark New Ideas

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Solving problems often involves coming up with new ideas. How can you use data to make better decisions? How can you better engage your team at work? How can you find more meaning in your life?

Yet coming up with new ideas can feel daunting at times. After all, is there anything new under the sun?

Here are a few ideas to get your creative thoughts flowing.

What problem are you trying to solve? Start with what you’re trying to accomplish. Make sure your problem statement is well defined. This question has become a perennial favorite ever since I took a McKinsey & Company course called Strategy 101 at DIRECTV.

What would success look like? This takes a page from Stephen Covey‘s principle to begin with the end in mind. What perfect or better world state could exist? What is lacking today that would make the world a better place? If you can imagine it, then you can create it.

How many ideas can you come up with? Start by making a list of 10 ideas. Save the judgments for later. Just jot down ideas as quickly as you can. Then explore them further to see how they could play out to solve the problem you’re tackling. What would you have to do to make them work?

What new connections can you make? Many groundbreaking ideas take two seemingly disparate areas and connect them. Think Steve Jobs with computers and calligraphy. Nate Silver with economics and baseball. Alli Webb with beauty and blowouts.

How can you expose yourself to new concepts? What are you reading? If you mainly read non-fiction, try fiction. If you read business magazines, try something in the sciences. Check out a new report from the Institute for the Future. Listen to a TED talk or playlist.

Who’s in your network? How diverse is your network? Get to know some new people, especially cross generationally. That’s one of the things I love about the TV show Younger – the friendships across generations, with different perspectives on life.

How can you vary your routine? Our brains crave novelty and variety. So drive a different way to work. Take up a new sport. Go on an artist’s date (with thanks to Julia Cameron for that fun and fabulous way to “restock the well” of creative thinking). Think about what you usually do, and consciously do something else.

This week, on a family vacation, we mixed up our routine. We watching our son’s team play baseball in beautiful San Diego. We met new parents and players on the team. We tried new restaurants.

My husband and I went to a new yoga class we’ve been wanting to attend. We went paddle boarding and tried to figure out how to navigate the waves beyond the marina where we’ve been learning.

I dipped into The Economist‘s newly revised magazine, 1843. I learned fascinating things about the resurgence of stoicism, corporate campus design and why we work so hard.

And a David Brooks column in the New York Times led me to a fascinating new book by Barbara Bradley Hagerty about Life Reimagined.

My Connecticut family is visiting for my daughter’s big event this weekend honoring her service through National Charity League.

Today will be a group artist date, with a trip to the endlessly inspiring Getty Center.

And I’m looking forward to a learning week ahead at work, with our annual leadership program.

What will you do differently today to see the world from a fresh perspective?

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an enthusiastic alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, Social Media Savvy for Corporate Professionals, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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