How To Come Up With Great Ideas

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How is it that some people come up with great ideas all the time – while others struggle to think of anything original?

That was a question in one of my coaching sessions a couple of years ago. Since then, that question has nagged me and last year I decided to investigate what’s behind all this.

For me, it seems there are periods when I am really good at finding solutions or coming up with new strategies to move a client forward. At other times I come up with nothing.

What is your experience?

First, I thought that some people are born with it. They are natural idea creators or problem solvers. But during my investigations, it became very clear that this is not the case. The simple fact is that people with great ideas created a greater pool and wider range of knowledge, experiences and out-of-the-box thinking.

They are not born with this. It’s based more on the way they live and how far and often they step out of their comfort zones and expose themselves to new things.

This creates a wider range of connections and synapses in your brain which allows for new and different kinds of ideas. If you do this over and over again, your whole mindset changes and you open up to completely new thinking models. That is what makes those people tick.

What can you do to become a natural idea creator and problem solver?

First of all you need to put yourself out there and create different experiences for yourself. This does not need to be extreme. Sometimes the small changes make all the difference. Instead of watching the TV series you watch every night, chose something completely random. Something not on your list of things to watch.

Most famous people in the world from Albert Einstein to Nicola Tesla found inspiration in taking a walk to come up with new ideas. They had the habit of walking if they became stuck and couldn’t find a solution.

Another very good way is to give yourself time constraints to find a solution. This works really well in a game with other people. You put a problem on the table and everyone has three minutes to come up with a solution. You than share the results and decide on one solution to be implemented within the next three minutes.

Tune in to something different

Here’s another idea: try changing the environment you’re thinking in. This can be done with something simple like sounds. Having the sound of waves surrounding you can change your perspective. It can be rain, thunder, birds or any other natural sound. Even the background noise of a coffee shop can be great stimulation. Have a look at for some ideas.

Even instrumental music is a great way to widen your mind. Just make sure there are no lyrics to distract your thoughts. How about some classical music instead of the common pop stuff? You might be surprised by what this will do to your idea creation.

It seems that most great ideas occur in the shower or present themselves in the morning after a good night’s sleep. The way this works is that you might be really occupied with a problem you want to solve. But you can’t come up with an idea. As soon as you step into the shower your mind is distracted and moves away from the problem.

That is often the moment when your brain steps out of the problem and connects with other parts not related to the problem and a new idea is created. This is a very simple description, but that’s how it works. The wider the range of experiences then the more synapses that can be formed…and the more possibilities for ideas and solutions become available.

Get out there and create some amazing experiences. Expose yourself to new environments and step out of your daily routine. Mix things up and you will turn into a real idea machine and problem solver. How’s that for an idea?

Enjoy your new experiences!

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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