Ideas often seem to come about suddenly on the surface of the mind. Coming up with ideas is not by accident, but a result of long series of unseen idea-building processes, which go on beneath the surface of the conscious mind. That is, in idea production the mind follows an operative technique that can be learned and controlled. Its effective use is a matter of practice in the technique. The formula is simple, but it requires hard intellectual work to follow.

The ability of producing ideas is often within you by birth (as in poets, artists, scientists, and other creative people). But developing the technique or skill lies in your hands and self-training. The great Italian sociologist Pareto maintained that people are born in two kinds – the “speculators” and the “rentiers”. Speculators as the name suggests are the speculative type, who are constantly preoccupied with the possibilities of new combinations, and work on new ideas in what they do – in the fields of business, finance, creativity, etc. He describes the process as “reconstruction” leading to new ideas and change. The rentier types of people are those who are routine bound, steady going, conservative and not very imaginative. This being the case, therefore, there are large number of people who can produce new and fresh ideas, if they want to and work upon the process.

If a person is in the communications business – like advertising, public relations, and media – one may assume that it is probably because he is among the reconstuctors of this world. He has some creative powers, and these powers like others can be increased by making an effort, or adopting a pre-defined or existing process and by making it a technique for a better output.

Training your mind

In learning any art the important things to learn are, first, the principles, and second, the methodology. This also true of the art of producing ideas, and creativity. So what is most valuable to know is the source where to look for ideas, and at the same time to train your mind in the principles and methods by which ideas are produced.

In general, of the principles that underlie production of new ideas, there are two that are most important for us. The first of these is that an idea is nothing more or less than arriving at a new combination of the old elements. This is the basis of creativity and creative disciplines that we know about. For instance techniques like brainstorming, imagination management, and creative aerobics, which are so common and used today.

The second is the ability of seeing and creating relationships and similarities (links) in the chain of knowledge. Relationships in words, symbols, experiences, and behaviour, have profound influence on generating ideas and creativity. Consequently making this a habit of the mind to search for relationships between facts becomes most important in producing new and creative ideas. This habit can be cultivated by persons in every field or profession provided one has the will and put in the effort required.

With these principles in mind you can look at the actual methods or procedures by which ideas are produced, consciously and unconsciously. There are some systematic steps you need to learn and follow through, just as in producing or manufacturing a product in the factory.

  1. The first of these steps is for the mind to gather raw materials. Getting information and data, in our case, is not so simple. It is often quite tough with sources often not being easily available. Hence, we try and mentally dodge it, and hope for inspiration to strike us – like eureka!

  2. The second step is having intimate and detailed knowledge of the subject, the goal to be achieved, and of people in relation to it. Something unique and different from the common and the usual. In this we need to look deep, or far enough, and find the relationships which lead to a new or novel idea, or ideas.

  3. The third step is having continuity in the process. The key here is in the storage of information and data for use as done in fields like market research and R&D. Your mind thus acts as a retrievable file or folder in the computer!

  4. The fourth step is the critical analysis and use of the information and data effectively for idea generation and development. This process has to be gone through on paper, with computers and most importantly in your mind, for the right synthesis and deciding upon ideas. It is similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle where you create a picture from a jumble of pieces.

    It is recommended that you let the synthesis and initial ideas generated then lie for some time – to incubate. Look at them afresh after some time lapse. What you have to do is to turn the problem over to your unconscious mind while you sleep or do something else. This will help fine-tune your ideas and also develop them further if there are possibilities and options available. Ideas come after you have stopped straining for them, and let them pass through the sub-conscious. But here you still have to be constantly thinking in the unconscious mind!

  5. The final step or stage that you have to pass through to complete the idea-producing process is called arriving at the moment of truth in management. That is to make the idea become a reality and to make it work. When you do come to this step, you usually find it not such a good idea, as it seemed first! You then have to re work on it to fit the situation and conditions prevailing, under which it will work successfully. You have to be practical and patient in doing this. This will bring to light the possibilities and opportunities or plans which you may have overlooked, and it will help the idea to work in its practical usefulness.

From the experiences of many people and professionals there is hardly any short cut to producing new or fresh ideas. You have to have the information and knowledge, which you put through the described process, in order to produce ideas that are unique yet appropriately workable. The cycle of years (experience) itself does something to enhance your idea producing capability, and within this you can also expand your experience both personally and vicariously. This today is the art of scientific thought and your creativity in your personal and business life. Make no mistake about it.