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How to come up with good ideas?

Ideas are all around us. We all have ideas and we all want new ideas, like business ideas to grow, Spotify ideas to refresh, Netflix ideas to chill, people ideas to hang out with tonight, jokes ideas to make people happy, hobby ideas to enrich your soul, etc. Ideas, to be called good, are not easy to come up with (or pass by).

We have all heard the saying “It all begins with an idea”. Having good ideas improves the productivity of your work, brings more satisfaction to your life, and that of people around you. This article stems from a collection of wisdom from high-performance people on how to come up with good ideas. Let’s get digging.


How to come up with good ideas?

Consume through the lens of producing

In today’s digital age, you are constantly exposed to a melting pot of content from your social media feed, websites & apps, etc. It is hard to filter good ideas from mediocre ideas. A tip is to consume through the lens of producing. Whenever you consume new information, think of whether what you observe fit to produce a tweet, a status update, a picture, a story, or a blog post, etc. “When you know you consume to produce things, everything you consume changes. You are more discerning, you have high standards, you don’t want to waste time-consuming anything but the very best you can get your hands on. Like the saying “Garbage in, garbage out”, your output will be directly constrained to the quality of your input.” – Tiago Forte.

Allow silly thoughts

“My favourite way of coming up with ideas is saying all of the stupid things that come into your head to another person – ‘let’s do nan-vertising’, ‘let’s shave the logo into chihuahuas,” etc. – then one of those stupid thoughts might trigger a reference or some other stupid idea from your creative partner, and you can follow that wormhole into the stuff that’s fun, or amusing, or intriguing, or exciting, and an interesting idea is usually at the end of that.” – Julie Seal, Facebook Creative Strategist. Good ideas needed to start somewhere, even the silliest.

Good ideas take time

How to come up with good ideas in no time? It’s very hard. Ian Spalter, Instagram former head of design knew that to produce something of high quality, there needs to be time and also, perseverance to ask for that time. In response to the CEO’s request to redesign the logo in one week, he said “We are gonna need a room, we are gonna hole up, and you are not going to see anything from us for three months”. Good ideas can take time because the process is most of the time not as linear as “I came up with a good idea”, but rather “I let go of a ton of bad ideas”.

Embrace wabi-sabi in yourself

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese philosophy of imperfection. Embracing wabi-sabi could be as easy (or as difficult) as understanding and accepting yourself — with all its beauty and flaws, in other words, as it is. It’s about being compassionate with yourself as you are, and building on whatever that is — not feverishly trying to rebuild yourself to pose as something else entirely. Research has proven over and over again that being a perfectionist can badly backfire on you. (BBC, 2021). Perfectionism brings you stress and unhappiness. It increases your tendency to procrastinate out of fear of not being perfect, which trips you off the privilege to fail fast and learn from your errors, the core of discovering good ideas.

Set your bar high

Nick Eagleton, co-founder of Saboteur Brand Studio: “It takes courage to constantly surround yourself with great work because you’re always thinking ‘That’s too good’, or ‘I wish I’d done that’, or they just make your ideas look a bit crummy. But don’t be disheartened, it’s how you set your bar high”. It can feel intimidated being ‘the worst’ in the classroom of the best. Don’t give in, let yourself be amazed by a myriad of good ideas, and your standards are raised. So does the quality of your ideas.

Write it down

“Insights from a book you read, a podcast you listened to, a movie you watched, write it down before you know how you are going to use it, even if you are certain will not forget it for the rest of your life… The reason is your mind has a limited carrying capacity, if you are trying to hold onto things, it is like you come home from the grocery store, and your hands are full of grocery, you cannot hold another object, you cannot cook a beautiful meal unless you start unloading them. Write down the mundane details, unload your mind.”. – Tiago Forte, the man before The Building a Second Brain Podcast. Give your brain space for the good ideas to flourish.

Stand on your feet

How to come up with good ideas on your feet? For fans of The Old Man and The Sea, you may have heard his standing writing habit: “Hemingway uses a standing desk when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.”

“We’re sitting, on average, for 9.3 hours per day—far more than the 7.7 hours we spend sleeping.”, Nilofer Merchant, one of the top business thinkers in the world by Thinkers50 from Silicon Valley. Instead of meeting in conference rooms, she asks people to stand up on their feet, have standing and walking meetings. “It’s changed my life,” she says. According to Stanford, it increases your creative thinking by 60%. Indeed, being on your feet is the preferred way to have serious conversations of Steve Jobs. This workstyle is also endorsed by legends such as Beethoven, Goethe, Charles Dickens, Darwin and tech businessmen Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner (CNBC).

Get yourself in trouble

Have you come across the story of how many successful businessmen were not considered “well-behaved” in their childhood. “If you get yourself in trouble, you don’t have the answers. And if you don’t have the answers, your solution will more likely be personal because no one else’s solutions will seem appropriate. You’ll have to come up with your own. It’s always wrong before it’s right.” Chuck Close, painter. The process of getting yourself out of trouble is also the process of giving birth to good ideas.

Design a flexible workspace

Neil Stevenson, creative at IDEO said “When people become glued to a particular place, their perspective stays glued, too. Putting things on wheels, or having standing desk allows people to change their perspectives, meet new coworkers and invite collaboration”. Herman Miller researchers conducted extensive studies and recognized the benefits of a standing desk, which motivated bodily movement, which was found to improve “mental fluency and alertness”. Moreover, raising a seated person will enable him/her to have convenient eye-contact with a person who is standing (e.g., passerby). – Katja Thoring, Designing Creative Space PhD Thesis at TUDelft. So, next time you ask yourself how to come up with good ideas, look around your workspace.

Stop stalking originality

A good example of non-original idea from Spotify and Revolut in Alain’s keynote.

“Nobody wants to be unoriginal, everyone wants to be the first. We are drunk in the pursuit of originality” – says Alain Sylvain, Founder of Sylvain Labs, in a keynote at OnBrand Studio in Amsterdam 2020. He quoted Mark Twain “The kernel, the soul — let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances — is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them”. Do recycle ideas, and make them good enough to be marked yours.

Sleeves Up & Get started

“It is about connecting the dots”, says Steve Jobs. There are times when connections happen and an idea is sparked, and there are times that don’t happen and in those cases, says legendary ad man Patrick Collister, just start doing and see where that leads you. “You just start, something happens, and then bit by bit by bit you work into it.” Let us recycle the household tagline from Nike “Just do it”. That is our last message in this article.


To summarise on the topic of how to come up with good ideas, the tips we have for you are consuming through the lens of producing, allow silly thoughts, ask for your time, embrace wabi-sabi in yourself, bring your bar high, write it down, stand on your feet, get yourself in trouble, design a flexible workspace, stop stalking originality, and finally, actually get started and just do it.


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