How to Easily and Purposefully Generate Great Ideas

How to Easily and Purposefully Generate Great Ideas

Knowing how to generate great ideas with purpose is an important skill to have.  How many times have you heard a solopreneur say "I have ideas coming out my ears – in fact, I have more ideas than I can handle". I do hear this frequently.  Interestingly enough, having ideas doesn’t necessarily translate into earning money.

If having ideas was the path to instant profit, we would all be rich.  Ideas are not difficult to come up with; however, purposeful ideas, an “idea on demand”–now that is a skill that I respect. Not everyone has that particular skill.

Ideas may come from many directions. But what we need are ideas that come when we need them for what we need and for that we need brainstorming skills.
Brainstorming is an awesome skill to develop and I definitely want you to learn it.  I want it to become part of your marketing arsenal.

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut–our ways of thinking become habitual. We learn how to do things and we tend to keep doing it the way we learned. Brainstorming is about shaking it up and asking ourselves, “is there another way to take a look at it?”  The goal of brainstorming is to think about our goals and problems in a new way so we come up with new results.

Have you heard about right brain/left brain? I have studied the topic; however, I am not an expert.  I know that I have a tendency toward left brain thinking.  The left brain thinker is logical, sequential, rational, analytical, and objective. We look at the parts of something to try to understand it and we form strategies. I like lists, numbers and problem solving.  The right brain person is much more random. They are intuitive, holistic, synthesizing, everything is subjective, they look at the whole to try to understand. They like to present possibilities.  I am such a left brain kind of person that brainstorming is not a natural skill for me. I have had to loosen things up and learn to suspend belief so the brainstorming process can take place. I have had to open up my mind to possibilities and be willing to looking at things in new ways.

One of our objectives in brainstorming is to engage both the left and right brain. If you are left brained, you want to stretch over into that right brain territory to embrace creativity. If you are right brained, you want to stretch into the left brain territory to get some clarity and adopt a little form.  I want to introduce the steps of brainstorming as I use them.

First of all, I do not sit down and declare that I am going to brainstorm for awhile and just think hard to generate ideas, ideas, ideas!  That is what some people think of brainstorming–just stting down and allow free associate for awhile. I am more purposeful than that.  I pick a specific issue that is stumbling me up or a problem that needs to be solved or a goal I have not been making enough progress on.  Basically, I pick something to specifically brainstorm for.

Identify one thing. Don’t start with something too wide and varied.  If you want to start an online business but you do not know what it is yet, I will most likely be starting wide.  There are a few situations where one would brainstorm wide but then you are going to zone in on something specific.  

In this Ted Talk, Matt Ridley shows the history of combining ideas to generate new ideas:

I usually have a specific problem that needs solving so I will identify the seven steps that I go through:

Step #1. Identify resources.

What do you have going on for you that can help you with this problem?


Step #2. Identify obstacles.

What stumbling blocks are in the way? What do you think is causing the problem?

Step #3. Brainstorm possible solutions.

This is where we want to suspend belief.  Do not over criticize the ideas that you start to write down.  I like to use index cards or just slips of paper and just start writing down my ideas.  While you are in this step, everything is possible. Write down big, expansive, exciting, dreamy ideas that utilize your resources and crush your obstacles.  Here’s this idea, here’s that idea, here’s another idea and so on. When I am done, I may have an half inch stack of index cards or a bunch of slips of paper.

Step #4. Group Ideas

I take my cards and I start bundling my ideas into groups in whatever way makes the most sense to me.  We do this because seeing several ideas grouped together has a way of sparking even more ideas.  Go ahead and write down any new ideas that pop up and continue moving cards around into related piles.

Step #5. Evaluate for Value

Up until now we have suspended belief, we have accepted all possibilities, big expansive exciting dreamy stuff. Now that we have it grouped, let’s go ahead and evaluate it critically. What makes the most sense and has the greatest chance for success? What do you believe you could make happen?  You might actually identify more resources as you look at a group of ideas and know that you can handle that or know somone who could help you with it.   Or you might actually see another obstacle pop up.

Evaluate the ideas and take the groupings that have the greatest chance for success in your opinion and take the other ideas and push them aside. Evaluate and decide which one is the best–what is the best bundle of ideas? Perhaps rephrase it a little bit so that you have an idea that is a good solution to your problem. It might be a mix of two or three different index cards that have come together.

Now, take the best ideas and move them to an Idea Sheet.  Identify the pros and cons of this idea/solution in the space provided.

Step #6. Consider Timing & Benefits

Determine the level of urgency. Is this solution time sensitive? Identify the area of your business that would benefit most from implementation.

Step #7. Table or Tackle

Now we make a decision, table it or tackle it. If you decide the problem is urgent, the solution is plausible and you have what you need to make use of the idea/solution, go ahead and tackle it.  Tackle it means you move on to create a specific action plan. You put it on your To Do list. You schedule it on your calendar and you get it done.  If you feel it is plausible enough but you do nothave the time for it right now or you do not have all of the resources you need, it might be best to Table It.  Don’t be afraid to ‘Table’ good ideas.  If I come to the end of my brainstorming session with a decision to table, I don’t mind.

general new ideas 2


We can’t solve every problem today and shouldn’t try to. We have to focus on issues we can solve with a preference given to those that bring in profits. If we spend time poking at problems and ideas we don’t have all the answers for yet, we are spinning our wheels.

I only have so many hours in a day and several different income streams. I must focus my best time, creativity and resources on the income streams that work. The alternative is to focus on what is not working – and that’s just not smart.

Occasionally I come to the end of a brainstorming session with not to just table it, but to dropkick it. This is a terrible project. I don’t have anywhere near the resources necessary to make this work. The obstacles are too huge and I don’t even care. If my best brainstorming efforts didn’t yield hope, I am probably going to ditch the project; however, I am more likely to table and come back to it because situations change over time.

What to do with the Ideas you Table?  If you have a file box or section of a file cabinet to use, consider setting up a few folders with various labels.  Or use Evernote.  Some labels you may need are:

  • Do These Next (ASAP Ideas)
  • Spring Prep (Pull & Schedule in the Winter)
  • Summer Prep (Pull & Schedule in the Spring)
  • Fall Prep (Pull & Schedule in the Summer)
  • Winter Prep (Pull & Schedule in the Fall)
  • Do This When I Hit $____ Per Year (BIG ideas you are not ready for.)


When you are done brainstorming something and decide to table for later consideration, you can pop your Idea Sheet into one of your folders.  Once it is tabled, it is out of sight and out of mind.  

Oh, and to make sure you check these folders, you can set up a ‘Tickler’ note your calendar. This is simply a reminder such as ‘Pull & Evaluate Spring Prep Folder’.

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About Online Biz Boomer Babe

Rachel Lavern is a Certified Business Coach and founder of My Booming Online Business--a blog for middle-age, global, uptown women. She is on a mission to transform entrepreneurs' finances by teaching the action set, mindset and skill set needed to get launched + make money.

Comments

  1. Great post. I consider myself and idea factory and over the years I’ve learnt that having a system to manage my ideas will keep me sane. The first thing I do is write my idea down and let it sit for a few days. Then I put pen to paper and explore how viable and feasible it is. If it’s worth taking forward, I map out steps to make it a reality.

  2. These were so on point! With being a designer and photographer, having great ideas are a must. So thank you for the extra information and help keep my creative imagination flowing! 🙂

  3. Such a wonderful and inspirational post! Being a creative person it is sometimes hard to stay motivated and productive! These are definitely some very helpful insights! Thank you.

  4. Great tips, Rachel. As an author, I work with suspending disbelief a lot while brainstorming plotting ideas, and do so with my editorial clients as well. I can vouch for how expansive this is!
    Are some ideas fantastical? Yep. But that doesn’t make them any less workable. In fact, the idea for my next novel dropped into my head last week, which is a first when finishing up the one I’ve been working on! And it’s the most far-fetched I’ve ever done–or ever even thought of. Can’t wait!
    Susan Mary Malone recently posted…A Character I Wish I Would have CreatedMy Profile

  5. What a terrific post, Rachel. I enjoyed the TED talk, and your approach. I think the best part, is that you keep the process open-ended, and encourage curiosity and exploration, as opposed to the paralyzing ‘overwhelm’ that often plagues us around decision making. Well done!

  6. Great post to get motivated on organizing your goals. I like #7 table or tackle!

  7. Wow, this article is FULL to the brim with content. You really give the why and how of generating ideas. A very valuable post! The grouping together of ideas was new to me, but I could see how that would naturally make connections you might not have made otherwise.

    • Hi Ivanna,

      Thank you. The grouping together of ideas came about because people usually spatially organize ideas and group ideas together to get a better sense of any possible solutions.

  8. I agree that brainstorming is important. I just need to make time to do it. That’s my goal.

  9. Wonderful tips yet again Rachel. I too am a lover of lists and I’m constantly jotting down notes and ideas but it is random and I haven’t kept them organised, which means I either forget my (brilliant) ideas or can’t find the notes I’ve made. Your ideas for filing are so helpful and I’m going to get started on a filing system.
    Tamuria recently posted…5 FABULOUS JEWELLERY PROJECTS TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMASMy Profile

  10. This is a fantastic post! I am more of a logical, analytical person so allowing myself to dream past what I feel is actually attainable is hard for me. But I’m sure the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
    Shani recently posted…Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh {Plus Book Club Discussion/Questions}My Profile

  11. Haha I loved that Ted talk! Such great brainstorming ideas, I will be implementing them!

  12. It’s interesting to read this article today as I just listened to two webinars yesterday on this very topic. Being left brained myself, it helps to have a list to go through to generate ideas. Thanks!

  13. Wonderful tips in this post, Rachel! I find that I stream ideas all the time and often wait until I have several of them collide or intersect and this is when I start shaping and formulating how I want to move forward. This is especially true for how I write. Seemingly unrelated ideas that fit together. I’m not as organized as you though. I also love the idea of staying wide open and suspending disbelief in order not to limit where the idea can lead. It’s interesting how each of us works in such different ways and yet how we are able to take an idea and bring it into fruition.

  14. I love the way you clearly spell out the steps to “brainstorming” I’m a list person and like to check off each step. This is one worth printing out to keep as a checklist!

  15. Thanks for this roadmap. The one that works the best for me is the brainstorming and suspending disbelief. Also it helps me to step away from the issue completely and go for a walk

  16. Love these steps and especially the ones at the end. I brainstorm, or listen on a regular basis and when I hear of things that are pains in my industry, I have a file on One Note for blog ideas and always adding to them so when it’s time to blog I go to that list and write on what tickles my fancy or what seems to need to be said at that time.
    Kristen Wilson recently posted…Why A WordPress Website Is Awesome For Small Business!My Profile

  17. Great organizational ideas. I especially like like the planning for one season in another. I generally plan the whole year. Taking it in parts would be easier!

  18. Hi Rachel

    Great post to motivate

    Thanks for sharing!

  19. I think brainstorming with yourself is great…and even better when you can involve other people. I know I often have brilliant ideas that, as soon as I talk about them to someone else, make me sit back and think, “Damn, that was stupid.” It’s always helpful to have an interested “other” whose only stake in the conversation is helping you get where you want to go.

  20. Hi Rachel,
    Awesome steps to take to generate great ideas! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  21. Great explanation of brainstorming and your method for using it for yourself, Rachel. I think many only see brainstorming as a group activity and miss the personal value. Also, I like how you expanded it beyond just generating ideas to the importance of evaluation process and deciding to move forward or not.
    Joyce Hansen recently posted…How to keep up business productivity when the time clock shiftsMy Profile

  22. I also like to keep track of the ideas I have that I’m not able to act on at the moment for future reference. Sometimes when the well is dry, that’s a great resource. It can give me a place to start, and of course, time gives fresh perspective.
    Jennifer Quisenberry recently posted…Living Gluten-Free and Happy Through the HolidaysMy Profile

  23. Rachel,

    Great explanation of brainstorming and how helpful it is to do this in the beginning of writing an article. It sets the the stage for the outline and things to come.

    Thank You,

    Lori English

  24. A business becomes big not because of money but because of a big idea. You have really nicely shared how easily generate great ideas. Brainstorming is also a great way to generate new ideas.

    Thank you for sharing these awesome tips. Keep sharing more.

  25. Hello Rachel! What a great post, power packed full of some awesome tips! Oh yeh I have a tons of notes from this one and now know right where to store them to.. I am book marking this and will come back later tonight and listen in to this TED talk..
    Thanks for sharing
    Chery :))

  26. Another excellent post Rachel!

    And really love your system for sorting and prioritizing your various projects.

    Because let’s face it, we each only have so many resources, time and energy, which can
    and should be devoted to any given project.

    And some ideas, no matter how lofty, should be tabled altogether, or at least,
    placed on the back burner for the time being.Thanks for sharing another excellent post!
    Mark recently posted…Why Extremely Savvy Entrepreneurs Would Rather Be Short On Cash But Long Marketing Skills!Part TwoMy Profile

  27. Hi Rachel

    I do agree that it is eay to generate ideas but difficult to make them into one that is profitable. The tips you shared here are golden and will make an idea become a reality. Thanks for sharing. Take Care
    ikechi recently posted…5 Common Thinking Errors That Prevents You From Standing Out From The CrowdMy Profile

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