The world is vast and beautiful, so why is it so difficult to find inspiration? With a little hard work, a great idea can develop into something fantastic, but where do great ideas come from? What do you do when you have an important deadline and need a great idea RIGHT NOW?
Here are five steps to help produce your next great idea.
1. Define Your Audience
There are two main things you need to know...who is your audience and where does your audience hang out? How do we know whether or not they are the "right" audience?
Common sense tells us that people can be grouped into different market segments based on similarities in lifestyle preferences. Where should we look to find people whose lifestyles compel them to be predisposed to our product or services?
Let's start with Instagram. For the most part, Instagram's user base is heavily interested in clothing, accessories, and entertainment-related brands. Similar to its contemporaries (Flickr, Foursquare, and Gowalla), Instagram successfully feeds on a Hipsteresque vanity and the ever important "word of mouth" interest or "buzz." If you are not familiar with Instagram, seek out a regular Instagram user and shoulder-hawk them until you become comfortable with the ebb and flow of this social media powerhouse.
Facebook, believe it or not, is still frequented by the younger generation, but only when the younger generation wants to communicate with the older generation. That being said, you should still take advantage of this rugged Ol' standby, particularly if you run a business.
Twitter is great for the news of the day, but Pinterest is the place to be for food, drink, and family content. With Pinterest, you can search for clues and answers pertaining to the problems and frustrations of the modern family.
Knowing your audience and what makes them tick is the clearest-cut way to make sure your idea gets off to a good start. While it is far too easy to make fun of, Consumer research really is time well spent, so go ahead and put on your detective hat and find out which social network is frequented by like-minded patrons. You might be surprised who your target audience really is.
2. Remember the Good Times
The amount of untapped information in our brains is staggering, but it isn't necessary to build a "memory palace" in order to utilize these past experiences, nor do you need to become a practitioner of Mnemonics. Just take a moment. Find a quiet room and do the following:
Close your eyes. Imagine someone you love. Sort through the mental images in your head and isolate one or two of them. Open your eyes and write down your feelings about these images. It may be helpful to look through some old photo albums to recall fond memories.
Next, extract the insignificant details and pinpoint a fascinating aspect of each experience with this person. Explore the heart and soul of your feelings until you discover the iconic moment that defines your memory of this person. Now shape that memory so it is accessible to a wider audience.
Last but not least, micro test your newly streamlined memory/idea with acquaintances & co-workers (not friends or family) and see if they respond in a favorable fashion.
Be mindful (no pun intended) the real magic lies in the ability to make your audience "feel" these past experiences the way you do and ultimately connect with your memory turned idea on a personal level. Research tells us nostalgic memories can be spontaneously activated, provided the necessary emotional attachment is established. In the proper context, your memory-laden idea becomes a sophisticated emotional trigger causing your audience to remember their own past.
3. Go Shopping
Yes, it's true, but there is a catch. You can only shop for someone else, better yet, try to make something for someone else. Want to get your creative juices really flowing? Take a moment to consider what makes that person joyful, and then put your mind to work at coming up with the most creative gift you can. The benefits of bringing joy to others far surpass the benefits of strategy meetings.
As humans, we are genetically programmed to enjoy a surprise. Giving presents on someone's birthday is nice, but you will appreciate it more (and so will they) if you give a present when it's not their birthday. Be aware that profoundly good ideas often happen during the brainstorming period of your gifting initiative. Use this brainstorming period to be as creative as possible and be conscious of the ideas that come about so you can be sure to write them down.
4. Go Back To School
Inspiration often depends on your location. Your brain shifts into different modes in different places. Your local college or University is one of the best places to acquire a new perspective. College students (and college professors) have different perspectives, different backgrounds, and different influences that make their minds work in different ways. The mind nourishing environment of the college campus can be a welcome breath of fresh air (and a healthy escape) from a humdrum office work environment where the norm is to suppress creative thought.
Book an appointment with a College Professor and take a notepad with you. Talk to a few students in the student union. You'll be amazed at what they are currently studying. Foreign students often have unique perspectives based on their upbringing. Ask them about the pros and cons of studying abroad. You might be surprised at what you hear.
5. Find a Farmer
One of the best ways to generate new ideas is with an unexpected conversation with unusual people. Hanging around with the same circle of friends and co-workers will keep you in a thinking rut. New people in unusual occupations can offer refreshing new perspectives and bring about startling moments of inspiration.
Sleep on it
The best ideas leave an impression on the intended audience and seed positive feelings about the issues of the day. That is a lot of pressure for a young new idea. For as long as your deadline allows, give your idea time to fully develop by leaving it alone. Stop thinking about it for one night and get a good night's rest. After your morning coffee you will know if your idea deserves more time or needs to be abandoned. At a minimum your idea deserves you being at your best when you present it to your audience.
Among many other things, Nietzche reminded us of the importance of not just creating good ideas but recognizing the value of what has been created. The 5 steps presented here provide multiple opportunities to collect ample research data and ultimately help determine the value of the idea itself. Being resourceful is a good thing, but being thorough is even better.
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`Til next time, stay focused.
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