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If Great Ideas Occur in the Shower Then ...

If Great Ideas Occur in the Shower Then ...

September 03, 2008

Do some of your best ideas occur while in the shower?

I know it happens to me all the time and I'm always scrambling (while dripping wet) to try to get the idea down on paper before the idea escapes me.

You too? Then you probably get the same looks I get when I tell someone I have a great idea and pull out my ink-stained notes that look as if they were salvaged from Hurricane Katrina.

Just promise me that you won't do what the great Greek mathematician, physicist and inventor Archimedes did while taking a soak. This a great story!

Eureka! There's a naked physicist running through the streets!

As legend goes, he was in the tub when he determined the method for figuring out whether a royal crown was made of pure gold. He got so excited he ran out in the streets butt-naked yelling, "Eureka!" Apparently the term caught on. Glad that was the only thing that caught on from that event!

As business owners, we need ideas - new, innovative, creative and problem-solving ideas to fix things, launch new products, deliver better services, etc. But how do we generate those ideas, aside from trying to put everyone on our team in the shower?

Just a quick note. One of the best theories I've seen about why ideas often occur in the shower is because the soap and warm water help put us in a relaxed state with nothing more than our thoughts to keep us busy. We're attentive, but at the same time relaxed and there aren't too many places other than a shower where that happens.

The secret then is to create that same sort of environment - without the soap and water and with our clothes on! - when brainstorming with our team.

A few ideas to get your wheels turning

As I was talking about this subject with my staff, we came up with a long list of ideas that I use for myself and for my clients that have worked wonders. There's too many to list here and I have some very interesting methods that I plan to share in the Business GPS Newsletter for our Gold Members. But in the meantime, here are a few you can use in no particular order to get those creative juices flowing ...

  • Invite people totally unrelated to the topic you're discussing to the meeting. If you're brainstorming with your marketing team, for example, invite others from accounting, customer service and other parts of the business to participate. You'll be amazed at how inviting "outsiders" can change the dynamics of the brainstorming and spur new ideas.
  • Take the time to tour other business to see how they operate and see if there any ideas you can borrow. Henry Ford never thought of the idea of a moving assembly line until he visited a Chicago stockyard. Google's founders used the data mining algorithms commonly used to rank college professors to create its search engine algorithms.
  • Hold your brainstorming session off-site. You'll not only get away from the distractions, but you'll be meeting in a neutral environment where everyone can be relaxed but attentive enough to foster innovative ideas. One of my colleagues regularly held brainstorming sessions at the offices of his customers and had the customers participate too.
  • This is one of my favorites. Express the idea or issue as if you were explaining it to an old, wise person sitting in a rocking chair. Then, explain it again as if you were talking to a trusted friend. Finally, do it again as if you were explaining it to a child. When explaining your idea to a child, you'll be forced to simplify it. When talking to a trusted friend, you'll be more likely to express what's really behind your idea. And when talking to the old sage, you'll likely get wise advice.
  • Magnify and "minify" the idea. When you magnify it, try to make the idea even bigger and bolder. As yourself, "What can we do with that idea that would put us in the Guinness Book of World Records?" Then, try to "minify" the idea - see how you can make it smaller and narrower? How can you make the idea the "world's smallest (fill in the blank)?"
  • Ask yourself, "If it (the idea) were an animal, what would it be?" "If it were a car, what kind of car would it be?" These questions will get the ideas flowing.
  • Go to the library or bookstore and just start opening the books on the "new nonfiction" shelves, scanning them for ideas. Let your mind wander. You'll be amazed at the gems you may find.
  • Check out design websites. I'm always in awe of the creative minds behind some of the designs at sites such as www.faveup.com and www.webcreme.com. There are hundreds like these, but I often found their creativity gets my own creative juices going.

Work on it, work on it, walk away

Whatever you do, don't beat your head coming up with new ideas. Walk away from it for a while and come back to it later. I often find that when I walk away from it, that's when the real breakthroughs happen.

Just a few weeks ago, I was on a plane with a colleague and I was totally exhausted, but we started brainstorming at 30,000 feet somewhere over Atlanta. We were both relaxed, but since there isn't much else to do we brainstormed pages and pages of ideas that sounded crazy at the time. We agreed to forget about them for a while and that's when the breakthrough happened!

You won't believe what we came up with! It's a very exciting idea and you'll be among the first to hear about it in the next few weeks. I'll keep you posted.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,

Jon