The Importance of Ideation Practice

by | Jan 17, 2017

We are required to come up with ideas; for business or personal problems, for a business, we want to start, for a party, we want to host, or for vacation with our spouse. So we go online, ask friends and try to come up with our own ideas — no matter what we choose, we tend to seek for an original idea. For some of us it might be easier yet for most of us, it will be difficult to come up with creative ideas.

Maybe the answer can be found in our ideation habits. The ability to come up with original ideas required practicing, just like in sports. Coming up regularly with ideas requires practicing the Ideation “muscle” exactly like any other muscle. Think of it as in sports. Can you get fit by sitting on a chair doing nothing? Probably not. You will need to practice. Time and time again.

It goes the same with ideas. It is counterintuitive to think about ideas as something we need to practice because we tend to believe that ideas depend on quality, not on quantity. Surprisingly, reality proves us wrong. When analyzing success stories in art, business or science, what we will discover is that more means better.

In art, Picasso drew more than 1,800 paintings, created more than 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics, and 12,000 drawings and this remarkable oeuvre doesn’t include prints, rugs, and tapestries. Before his death at the age of 35, Mozart composed more than 600 pieces; Beethoven produced 650 in his lifetime, and Bach wrote over 1,000 music pieces. In science, Einstein published 248 scientific papers, most of which had minimal impact, but some of them transformed everything we knew about physics. In business, Edison who invented the phonograph, the carbon telephone (in parallel to David Edward Hughes in England), and of course the lightbulb, filed for more than 100 patents for other inventions in the same period of five years that he invented the formers. During all of his career, Edison filed for 1,093 different patents. Dean Kamen, the inventor of Segway, filed for more than 440 different patents before his tragic death. Kamen realized it early on and used to say that “You have to kiss many frogs before you find a prince.”


Dean Simonton, the distinguished Professor of Psychology research about originality, creativity, and geniuses, wrote the famous book The Origins of Genius. He says that creative genius not necessarily qualitatively better in their fields than their peers, “They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality. The odds of producing an influential or successful idea,” hs says, are “a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.”

Why do I believe every business professional should practice her idea muscle? Besides the obvious benefits of coming with better ideas in business, there is another implication. When we are being asked to come up with ideas, we will probably come up with a small number of ideas that we believe are good. Typically, we tend to stick to these ideas because we don’t have others to present. So we will champion what we have instead of trying to come up with more ideas. When we are practicing our ideation muscle we’re also opening more opportunities for ourselves — not to get stuck at one point, one idea, one perspective but rather creating a flow of possibilities.

Thus, what you can do about it? As simple as it may sound, practice.

How? Well, you will find many ideas J how to do it, but I will give you one technique I use. Every morning when I wake up, I prepare a coffee and sit down to write 10 different ideas: 10 ideas on how to improve my favorite app, 10 ideas how AI can change my life, 10 ideas for courses I can teach, 10 ideas for workshops I can develop (We run at TheArtian unique creative workshops, therefore, demand from ourselves to push our boundaries), 10 ideas how I can improve my experience in the barbershop. Sometimes I change the routine: I choose a word, and later I come up with images that can represent it. For example, what are the images I have in mind for the words creativity, inspiration, or success? Again I will try to come up with ten different images.

Some of the topics are daily and simple, some are more imaginative and require more effort. Some of the ideas are totally stupid, some I really like. In the end, it doesn’t matter because you are doing it for yourself. Don’t feel bad when you have a stupid idea — write it down. More importantly, make it a routine, don’t stop writing after five or six ideas, these are easy to achieve. Crossing the seven and eight is the hardest part.

So, what is your ten ideas topic for today?

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