Sparking Creativity – How to Get Good Ideas

I had the good fortune to catch Austin Kleon, pitching his latest book and talking about creativity, at Translator in Milwaukee over this summer.  During his talk he posed an interesting question that turns out to be really insightful: Are you a net giver or receiver of good ideas?  

It’s great to share your ideas with others, and there are many good reasons why you should continue to do that, but this is about input.  Are you getting enough new ideas?  We all know the importance of continuous learning – we preach it all the time!  But are we practicing it?

I took Austin’s question to heart.  I thought about my net idea ratio.  I decided to increase my idea input.  A list of suggestions follows.  Some of these came from Austin Kleon, some from me.  Some I was already doing, some I’ve started doing.  Some I plan on doing.

Where can you get ideas?  Give some of these a try:

  • Join the local chapters of professional organization like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) or others.  Most offer monthly chapter meetings where you can hear from others outside of your normal circles, and do some networking as well.   Membership in most of these groups’ national organizations will probably get you a subscription to a good magazine too.
  • Just go to the TED website right now and get on their mailing list.  There is so much good stuff on TED that you can spend weeks watching it all.  My suggestion: Find a bunch of stories you want to hear, download the audio or video to your computer, transfer it to your mobile device and listen to it during your commute.
  • Subscribe to a great general interest magazine like Atlantic, Harpers, or Vanity Fair.  They feature very well-written, thought-provoking articles in every issue.  There are lots of others.  Go to the magazine section in your local library or book store and browse a few.
  • Subscribe to professional magazines like Harvard Business Review, or Strategy + Business.  They usually have well-researched, business-related articles.  Magazines such as Wired and Fast Company, if nothing else, will keep you up to date on cutting edge technology.
  • This is counterintuitive, but you should pursue your hobbies and the arts.  Go fishing, build a model airplane – do things that make you happy – that recharge you – and take your mind off of the sources of anxiety in your life.
  • Do things that might inspire you. Go to a museum, or a concert.  Go on an architecture tour in a nearby city.  Go to a national park.
  • Take a walk!  The link between moderate exercise and mental and physical health is well-known.   Plan 20-30 minutes into you work schedule at lunch time to go outside and take a walk.  Try it.  You’ll feel better, and think better, in the afternoon every time.  Make this an “A” priority.  It’s as important, maybe more important, than any meeting you will attend.
  • Use your hands!  This is a great one from Austin Kleon.  Step away from the computer.  Get paper, pencils, color markers, scissors, glue sticks, post-its.  Write, draw, doodle.  Get tactile!

Every organization is trying to foster innovation.  We are all individually challenged to boost our creativity.  These are just a few ways that we can make that happen.   For more ideas, visit Austin Kleon’s website – Steal Like an Artist.


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