How to create great ideas | Heart Internet Blog – Focusing on all aspects of the web

When people think of creating great ideas they often imagine sudden flashes of inspiration which come to people by sheer good fortune in classic ‘Eureka!’ moments. The reality is that anyone can generate amazing ideas through methodical processes and, in this post, we’ll outline some effective methods of doing this so you won’t have to wait to form your next idea.

Preparing to create ideas

You’ll need to stay focussed

A deep level of concentration is essential for coming up with effective ideas, so get yourself into an environment and mind-set that will allow you to focus before you get started. Avoid sources of excessive noise and distractions like phone calls, social media and email and set aside at least 30 minutes just for creating ideas. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the subject and to be conscious of the different thoughts you’re having.

You’ve got to be interested

When you’re mentally stimulated by the field in which you’re creating ideas, those ideas are likely to be much better than if you’re apathetic about the task because you’ll be keen to push yourself further to make the ideas as good as possible.

Don’t force ideas

Forcing ideas will only result in rash decisions and frustration, the reality is that amazing ideas are developed over time and the subject has to be considered from different angles so don’t demand instant solutions from yourself.

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Finding your starting point

Online sources of ideas

All great ideas start from a decent source of inspiration and using the internet is an excellent way to go about finding them. You’ll want between three and five sources to get started.

If you don’t have any specific sources in mind when you’re ready to start creating ideas, you can easily search for them online.

Search Engines

Try to make your searches as specific as possible to get the best results, for example, if you’re trying to develop an idea about how to save time when designing, search for time management articles specifically for designers as these will return more relevant information than pages about time management in general.

Look through your results and copy-and-paste anything that gives you an initial idea into a document with a brief explanation of what that idea is so you don’t forget it.

Social Media

Social media channels literally bring material to you, making them really helpful if you’re after a starting point for your ideas. Check your feeds and take a closer look at anything that seems particularly interesting and relevant. If you’re still looking for more after this, take a look at the profiles of those who tend to post the most exciting content and see what you find there and ask your friends and followers if they’ve seen anything relevant.

Extra online sources

You can also revisit specific sources that you think would be ideal starting points in your ideas creation process. See if anything valuable comes to mind in these categories…

– Blogs- Press releases- Videos- Podcasts- Images- Whitepapers- Online guides- Social sharing websites e.g. Reddit and inbound.org

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Offline sources of ideas

We rely on the internet so much for information and research that it’s easy to overlook the benefits of searching for ideas using offline material. Do some of the following and note down the ideas that come to you as you go:

– Pick up a book- Read a magazine- Watch a film- Take some photos- Visit an art gallery- Play a video game- Learn about a different industry- Listen to music and so on

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Ideas through problem-solving

Another effective way to develop relevant and valuable ideas is to start with an accurate representation of your target audience and identify the problems they are experiencing before forming ideas that can solve these issues. If you already receive customer feedback through mediums such as surveys, feedback forms, or requests and comments on your social media channels and blog, these would be good places to start.

For example, if you’ve had lots of customers asking for an extra service that you don’t currently offer, think of ways to provide them with this or a very similar benefit yourself or through an outside source or supplier. To generate an even greater understanding of what problems your customers have you can also ask yourself these questions…

– What does the audience want from this company?- Can we provide this at a deeper level?- What don’t they want from this company?- Can we reduce or remove these issues for them?- If customers don’t rave about our company, why not?

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Brainstorming ideas

Brainstorming ideas means you can consider lots of possibilities in a short space of time and come up with several ideas. If possible, brainstorm with others so there will be more ideas to draw upon and more perspectives to evaluate the ideas that are put forward.

Have clear aims and objectives

Make sure your brainstorming session is based upon clear aims and objectives so the session will stay focussed. If you’re brainstorming on your own, this ensures that the ideas you come up with will be relevant to your overall goal and, if you’re brainstorming in a group, having this plan will keep people’s suggestions on topic.

Set a time limit

Set a time limit for how long the sessions should last and start by writing down every idea, even if they seem odd or unfeasible; at this stage there are no bad ideas. After the time limit is over, go through crossing out any that are obviously inappropriate, put a question mark next to ones that may be worth discussing later and put a tick next to the great ideas. Don’t discuss these decisions; you’ll know which go in to the correct group, you just want to discuss those that are left in your ‘maybe’ pile.

Create a list of broad topics, segments and methods to break down further

This will add structure to your ideas so you can view them in more detail and judge more objectively how they can be conveyed and how important they will be for your target audience. The following is a good example of how this would work…

Broad topic: Increasing salesSegment: CopyMethod: Make our calls to action clearer

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Developing your ideas

Adapting ideas

Once you’ve developed a promising idea, adapt it to discover how it can be used most effectively. Here’s a list of some different ways you can adapt your ideas to figure this out:

Make a series or follow ups

If you’ve got a great idea, don’t limit yourself by just using it once. Alter how the idea is delivered to see if you can create regular and anticipated content for audiences using the idea every month, week or even every day if it’s strong enough. For example, if you run a restaurant and want to provide more relevant content to your customers you could run a monthly newsletter featuring recent news, updates and specials.

Change the segment

Ask yourself how this idea would work if you applied it to a different segment of your main topic. For example, if your main topic is increasing sales and you thought about achieving this through social media, apply this same idea to direct sales and see if this throws up new connections and opportunities.

Change the format

If you’ve got an idea planned for Twitter, think about how you’d present it on other social media channels, as a blog post, whitepaper, presentation, podcast, webinar and so on.

Change the hook

If you’re convinced that you’ve narrowed your idea down to the most effective format, find the best hook for it. An example would be if you delivered a blog post as a top ten list of articles or as a how-to guide.

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Analysing existing ideas

Think of some of the best ideas you’ve come across, the ones that had the kind of effect on you that you’d love for your idea to have on your audience. Once you’ve got a short list of these, ask yourself these questions…

Who is it aimed at?

Think about who the idea has been targeted at to get a clear sense of what it is trying to do.

What makes it effective?

This might seem like a really basic question, but it is often harder to answer than you might think. Push yourself to really define how the idea creates its effect.

How could the existing version be better?

Since there is no such thing as perfection, how do you think the idea could be improved and, if you were creating this example, what would you have done differently?

Create a bank of material for ideas

To give you more material to draw upon for future ideas, keep a bank of material either in a Word document or notebook containing interesting material that you come across and highlight what you found interesting about them and why you picked them out. Include relevant sources and comments under topics with titles e.g. ‘Social Media Contest Inspiration’ so you can find a starting point more easily when you’re creating your next ideas.

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What are your tips for generating ideas? Let us know in the comments below.

Image credits: Brad Montgomery, Peanuttt, Marco Arment, John Keane, Salvador Startups, Travis Isaac and Phing.

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