Photo by Kristopher Roller
This post is written by I. C. Robledo, author of many books such as Idea Hacks, The Secret Principles of Genius, and No One Ever Taught Me How to Learn.
Introducing Idea Hacks
Have you ever wanted to come up with a lot of ideas, but not known where to start?
For the people who already know how to be creative, it seems so easy. Yet if you ask them how they do it, you’ll often get an “I don’t know” or “It just happens.” Of course, this isn’t helpful at all. If you have sometimes struggled to get creative, I have a system called “Idea Hacks” that should help.
In my experience coming up with ideas can sometimes be a major pain. Just because you tell your mind that you want to come up with some ideas, doesn’t mean it will happen. Often, it’s quite easy to hit a wall and get frustrated, making you feel like you don’t have a creative bone in your body. However, I’ve found that when people use idea hacks, this helps their creativity come out more naturally, and the process then becomes easier and more fun. They tend to find creative inspiration quite quickly, because this ability was always inside of them, and they just needed a better way besides simply pressuring themselves to come up with ideas.
The point is that these systems work whether or not you think you are creative. They also work whether you just need a boost in coming up with new ideas, or whether you feel completely blocked, and are unsure how to overcome it.
The following are some examples of how idea hacks work.
An Alphabet of Ideas
With this system, all you do is go through the alphabet in your mind. Simply start with A, B, C, and so on, coming up with a new idea that starts with each letter.
As a quick example, let’s say I wanted to come up with ideas for types of aliens to use in a novel…
A could be for ant-people. They look like people, but their heads are like those of ants.
B could be for bees. A similar concept, but they are based on bees instead.
C could be for cells. Their bodies could be porous and shaped like a cell.
D could be for daring. Perhaps these aliens are much bolder, and more willing to do dangerous things than most humans would be.
E could be for eel. The aliens could have electrical properties where they shock anything they touch.
After a while, you will have many, many ideas and you can choose the best ones that you want to apply.
This is one of my favorite creative systems because it is simple, fun, and very effective….
If you would like to try it out, you can start coming up with more ideas, continuing with the letter F.
Loads of Questions
With this idea hack, the goal will be to come up with a large amount of questions that help you think in new directions. We often underestimate the power of questions, but they can be an excellent tool for taking the mind along new pathways.
As an example, imagine if your goal were to create a new type of social media platform. Without having to worry about coming up with ideas, you can make your task simpler by just asking questions about how you might start this new social media platform.
As an example of this, you could ask: What if you named it after a celebrity, and got them to endorse it somehow? What if you made it an exclusive experience, where you had to be chosen and invited to join, rather than just starting up an account of your own? What if you gained social points by specific positive actions you took in the real world? What if you could never post anything about yourself, and your home site was just a collection of things others had posted about you?
Notice that in this example, I repeatedly used “What if?” This can be an excellent way to start questions, but you can also go along many other directions, going with questions that begin with Who, What, How, Why, When, etc. Regardless, it is usually much easier to get yourself to think up questions, than it is to come up with ideas in general.
The Worst Ideas You can Think of
This idea hack will seem silly at first glance. With this one, you will actually seek to come up with the worst ideas possible. Rather than worry about needing to find the perfect idea, you will allow your mind to wander and explore all kinds of strange ideas, even if they don’t seem good at first.
Coming up with the worst ideas tends to be helpful for fighting creative blocks. Many of us might get a creative block because we automatically filter out ideas that we think are bad. But if instead, you allow yourself to consider them, you may find that they take you in a creative direction.
The interesting thing is that we are often quick to judge our own ideas as good or bad, but even ideas that appear to be horrible can often be modified, turned around, and developed to become a good idea.
Another positive is that when you allow all of these not-so-great ideas to come out, you will tend to have more fun, loosen up, and with all of these out of the way, you will feel more prepared to come up with ideas that are much better. It can act as a sort of training exercise to get your creative juices flowing, preparing you to do better.
As an example, imagine if you wanted to come up with ideas for a new exercise routine.
Some bad ideas may be to jog backward, to swim in Jell-O, to use babies as weights to lift, or to jump in a cage with a wild animal to motivate you to run faster.
Of course, these examples are pretty bad, and also silly. But often with some modification, they can be improved quite a bit. Instead of as an end point, think of bad ideas like this as a starting point to make you think in new directions. For example, babies are known to cry. What if there were barbells that made annoying noises (like crying) until you exercised with them? That way, you would be forced to exercise every day unless you wanted to hear the annoying sounds.
This still may not be the best idea you have ever heard, but the point is we can take impractical and horrible ideas and work with them to improve them. Your worst ideas won’t necessarily be as bad as they seem at first.
This has been just a brief introduction to what idea hacks are all about. To learn more creative shortcuts such as this, you can check out Idea Hacks: Come up with 10X More Creative Ideas in 1/2 the Time by I. C. Robledo