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On ideas & Innovation

How to have an idea


Have you ever been in a situation where you had to think of a new idea and just didn’t get the output you were hoping for? You were racking your brain but all it did was repeat the ideas you had already come up with? 

In this video I describe a very easy way of thinking about how an idea is formed and point out two ways you can change what you are already doing in order to think of something new.

You prefer the transcript? Find it below…

But what happens if you have an idea … and it’s “not good enough”?

How to have an idea:

Hi, I’m Johanna. Today, we want to go to the very basics.

Let’s think about your brain. Imagine this is your brain:


This box is your brain.

You’re giving it an input, which is your question:

What do you want to generate an idea for?

And it gives you an output, which is a set of answers.

And what do these answers depend on? (How can we influence them?)

They depend on two things.

Firstly, they depend on what you know: the knowledge that you have in your brain.


And secondly, they depend on how you think about that knowledge.

So, the ways of thinking that you are used to and that you are able to perform based on your past experiences.

If you sit there and think about it and try to generate answers,

what happens is that your brain goes through itself,

it accesses different types of information,

tries to make connections, all depending on the way that you think.

And after a while, it will have gone through all the obvious things

and you sit there and you’re racking your brain,

but basically no new ideas will come out.

Right? But I have some good news,

because there are ways that we can influence this

in order to get you to generate even more answers and different answers.


Going back to our highly sophisticated model of the brain,

we basically only have one thing that we can change,

in order to get generate different output.

And that is our input.

So, together with the question,

you can give your brain something else,

and there are two different types:

Firstly, you can give it more information

and that may be deeper information on the topic or totally different information.

Because as you know,

a lot of great ideas came by combining  areas of knowledge that had not previously been combined

and drawing parallels between problems in very different areas.


How do you get new information?

You can learn something by reading, taking a course,

but of course you can also invite an expert on a topic that you think would be promising

to combine with your existing knowledge.


The hard question of course is to find out which pieces of knowledge you are missing

to generate your great new idea.


The second way is together with your question input something that

prompts you to think in a different way.

This is where creativity techniques come in,

because they prompt you to think in different ways.

They will ask you: “Oh, how would … Batman solve the problem?”

And that gives you a different perspective.

Possibly. If you haven’t always thought like Batman.


So you can just take a look at the question from a different angle

and possibly generate new results.


You most probably also know Bionics,

which is where people ask the question:

“Hmm, I have this engineering problem … how would nature solve it?”

And then they say: “Okay, I need to move through water fast.

What in nature moves through water fast?

Sharks! Okay. Let’s take a look at their skin and transfer these

properties that it has to my mechanical problem.”


This is also why in many, many different contexts where

ideas and innovation are important,

people say: “Work in diverse teams!”,

because if you work in diverse teams,

you get two benefits at once.


You get access to different types of knowledge

and also different types of thinking, different perspectives.

If you ask the same question to a physicist, a psychologist,

a craftsperson, a salesperson,

you will get very different answers

and the magic will happen in combining these.

On top of this, if you get access to more information,

different types of information and different ways of thinking, 

you also learn.


If some part of you may have thought: “Okay,

there are these really creative people in the world.

And I’m just not one of them.”

Let me tell you that people who are doing something creative,

they consciously or unconsciously have practiced to think in different ways

and to connect and access different types of knowledge in the brain,

which gets them these new ideas.


It comes down to practice and learning and like everything

that comes down to practice and learning,

it may be really hard and uncomfortable in the beginning,

when you’re not getting the results that you want immediately,

because it’s a process.


But I think, I honestly think, that it’s worth it,

because this world needs new ideas: big ones, small ones,

and especially it needs each one of our ideas.

Just so that we can get more options in everything that we do,

just by thinking of different ways of doing it

and different results that we could achieve.

It just gives us more flexibility and choices.


I really hope that my little drawings and ideas about

how to have an idea are helpful to you.


And thank you for watching.

Have a great day and goodbye.