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How to have a good idea: Brainstorming is dead, but the thought lives on

By Julie Sturgeon
January 1, 2015
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It seems the popular term brainstorm has negative connotations for epilepsy patients, so the revamped catch phrase is “thought showers” — as in a downpour of ideas to choose from. Or perhaps it’s a nod to cleanliness. Either way, we could all use more great ideas from each other and our students. Here are some surefire ways to make sure it rains on your parade:

If you like it, put a ring around it.

Your brain wants to connect the dots. It uses what it knows to solve what it doesn’t. So play the analogy game to figure how a banana is like a carpet. Or how to improve a toothbrush. Or develop ways to create a slideshow.

Hug a weirdo.

Seek out the random, the odd, the unfamiliar, the quirky in your activities, your conversations, your hobbies. Subconsciously collect more examples of what’s possible to fuel future analogy sessions — and have a good time in the process.

Big ideas don’t belong to youth.

The average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries (think computers, health care and aerospace) is 40. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over age 50 as under 25, and twice as many are over 60 as under 20.

Think somewhere new.

The same four walls tend to create the same four thoughts. Find a new room, a new bench, a new location in the parking lot to pull out your pen and start doodling words and scribbles.

Have fun.

You can’t hurry the brain, so use this time on your hands as a child uses recess. Play, laugh, socialize, catch up. It all works out in the end.

Dive into history.

Man has left a few treasures of knowledge behind in his pursuit of all things modern. Dust off some ancient ways and give them a new try.

Participate in the arts.

Keep those neurons flexible and well oiled even when you’re taking a thought shower.

Be ready to hit reverse.

Change is a major ingredient of genius. Be ready to stop, turn and head in a new direction, even if that is a retreat. The only way to release your creative power is to work actively on just that.

Obey the three-minute rule.

Set aside three minutes of alone time, twice a day, for three days. Close your eyes and imagine yourself experiencing the emotional state that you’ll feel after your breakthrough — aka “be the winner.” Show your mind where you want it to go.

How to have a good idea