What’s your next bright idea?

Creativity is fuelled by expanding your knowledge and doing things you’ve never attempted before

What’s your next bright idea?

In last week’s article, you read about how to be creative, through tips such as trying to think like a child and being more visual. Today, we will discuss how you can come up with more ideas. The more you think, the more ideas you will get. The less you think, the less ideas you will generate. Have fun being creative. As Oscar Wilde quipped: “Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.”

Get more inputs

A new idea can sometimes be conceived from a combination of old ideas. A person who is knowledgeable is more likely to come up with a new idea than a person who is not. For example, George Westinghouse read about compressed-air rock drills used in tunnelling through the Alps and invented air brakes.

James Ritty needed to find a way to prevent the cashiers at his restaurants from pocketing the cash collected. On a trip on a steamer, he saw a device that counted and recorded the turns of the boat’s propeller. He used the same principle to build the cash register.

It is important to expand your knowledge by reading books, watching TV, surfing the Internet, listening to the radio, attending seminars and talking to others. My personal target is to read two books a month.

Search for ideas

A Latin proverb says, “If there is no wind, row”. Good ideas do not necessarily spring up by themselves; you have to make an effort to think. Keep a notebook handy and record any ideas that come to you.

The best ideas came to Albert Einstein while he was shaving. American artist Grant Wood found inspiration often while he was milking cows. For C.G. Suits, head of research at General Electric, discoveries came as hunches during his relaxation periods.

Sometimes, people will not accept your ideas, but if you believe you are on to something good, perseverance will see you through. Thomas Adams tried to sell his idea of chewing gum to a major company. They turned him down. So he started his own and sold it as Chiclets, which spawned a new industry.

Get out of the rut

Many of us eat the same breakfast, read the same newspaper, go to the same supermarket and watch the same TV programmes week in, week out. This means that our five senses are recording the same things they recorded previously.

American advertising executive Jerry Della Femina, who is famous for his colourful personality, says: “Creativity is about making a lot of quick connections — about the things you know, the things you’ve seen. The more you’ve done, the easier it is to make that jump.” If you are stuck in a routine, creativity is hard to come by.

Do something different. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Study a different language, order something in a restaurant you are unsure about, sleep at a different place, see a play you dislike, assist a stranger or talk to your enemy.

Be courageous

An idea is delicate. Respected copywriter Charles Brower remarked that an idea can be killed by a sneer or a yawn. If you have an idea, believe in it and be bold in defending it. Fear of rejection shuts down your idea factory.

Sometimes, ideas have results that were unintended by their creators. Richard Drew invented masking tape as an aid for paint jobs in the car industry.

He went on to create Scotch tape. In the 17th century, French mathematician, philosopher and inventor Blaise Pascal introduced a primitive form of roulette while experimenting on a perpetual motion machine.

Alexander Graham Bell’s work on hearing devices led him to invent the telephone. Vulcanised rubber was discovered by accident by Charles Goodyear, and Viagra was originally invented for hypertension but at a clinical trial in Swansea, England, many male patients returned asking for more. It was discovered that the drug helped them with erectile dysfunction.

Be persistent

Persistence is one of the major keys of creativity. Many people quit half way when success is around the corner. Thomas Edison tried over a thousand ideas before he found the solution to the light bulb.

For years, Orville and Wilbur Wright worked to build an airplane. They tested over 200 designs for wings alone in a wind tunnel they built.

Johannes Kepler spent nine years and used 9,000 sheets to calculate the orbit of Mars. Richard Gatling invested four years working on a machine gun before he succeeded. Nikola Tesla, the inventor of alternating current, worked from 10 in the morning till five the next day, seven days a week.

Put them together

When you combine two unrelated things, you get a new idea. Put food and fire together, you have cooking. Put a rag and stick together, you have a mop. Put a motor and a toothbrush together. Presto! You have an electric toothbrush.

Johannes Gutenberg combined a coin punch and a wine press together and invented a printing press. Levi Hutchins put an alarm and a clock together and created an alarm clock. Hyman Lipman combined a pencil and an eraser and made the lives of school children a little easier.

If you carefully observe things around you, there are many different things you can combine, resulting in significant improvements.

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