As many ideas as possible
To optimize an ideation process why not draw inspiration from the Theory of Evolution that teaches us to create as many variations as possible.
In Nature, from genes to ecosystems, variability is found at all levels. This is how biodiversity happens. Everything is constantly renewed: genes, anatomy, physiology, locomotion patterns, diets... Living beings build and rebuild constantly. Nothing is fixed. Everything evolves simultaneously. The history of Nature —and human evolution— is the result of a succession of innovations. The more variations mean the more diversity, opportunities and creativity.
We were born to have many ideas. Creativity is not the privileged few, it is in everyone. All we need to do is to create a favourable environment for its development; an atmosphere of trust where everyone can speak freely without fear of being judged.
Any project, whatever it is, should start with an inspirational phasis to enlarge your vision, followed by ideation phases to create a maximum number of variations. At this stage, we can never have too many ideas. It is important not to limit yourself. Take, for example, biodiversity and dare all forms of ideas, from the most serious to the most absurd. If we focus too quickly on the main idea, we can overlook the most innovative ideas. It is quite rare for the best idea to appear first. In the process of a brainstorming session, if an idea comes too quickly, there is a good chance that it is not very original. This is the perfect time to play the game of the five 'whys'. Imagine all shapes, all colours, all combinations, and when you feel you have exhausted all avenues, and you feel an emptiness in your mind, it is often then that the best idea emerges.
We must also be careful not to dismiss secondary ideas too quickly.
How many researchers or designers have seen an inkling unexpectedly become the idea that changed their lives? If the taxidermist Birdseye had never lived with the Inuit, he would never invented frozen foods and then succeeded so well.
Methods aside, do not let yourself be imprisoned by always repeating the same thing, the same recipe. Varying methods of generating ideas is also a way of creating variations. The traditional brainstorming does not always produce the expected results. Introverts rarely feel at ease, even if they are very creative when they're alone. Most of the time, silent brainstorming sessions are more effective. Circulating post-it notes on which each person writes a new idea, and members then build on the ideas of other ideas helps to generate even more ideas.
Biomimicry is another way to observe Nature to find ideas to fix problems. Leonardo da Vinci excelled in this area. No matter how you do it, the most important is not the method, but the state of mind of the players. What really key is to give you permission to express whatever comes into your head. The habit of generating many ideas should be cultivated as a natural and spontaneous process.
Creative minds do not need brainstorming sessions to get ideas, they have them all the time. As soon as they re-focus, connect with Nature or with others... as soon as they walk somewhere... ideas fuse. Word games are often an accelerator. The other great advantage of generating ideas by asking many questions, we exercise our brain to continually come up with new ideas. A creative mind stays agile. A brain, well oxygenated, will have many ideas. Our brain is built to generate the new hypotheses. Make it work! The more connections there are in our brain, the more it is stimulated. How many new ideas will you have this week?
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