28.04.2011 | by Darryn | view comments

Over the next few months I’m going to write about some of our key processes. I hope you find it interesting.

Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.
-Nolan Bushnell

Lots of people have ideas. Some people have notebooks full of them. But how do you determine a good idea from an average one? And how do give birth to an idea and make it real?

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.

Here’s a process I’ve found helpful in putting ideas into action:

Whether the idea you need to uncover is for a new business, a brand, your PhD topic, or a new film, the process is the same. What follows is loosely based on the four stages of creative cognition by Hermann von Helmholtz.

Stage 1: Preparation

This is the research phase where you intentionally gather information. Find the key facts, gather the data, and create an information base. Using this base, have your first brainstorm. Grab a large piece of paper with no lines (or a whiteboard), and go for it. There are no rules here, no wrong ideas. Simply get all your ideas out on paper. Sometimes it’s helpful to include others, sometimes it’s best done on your own. You choose. I do both.

Stage 2: Incubation

Here’s the hardest part. Do nothing. Let the information and ideas incubate. Cease to focus consciously and allow your unconscious mind take over. Go do something else. The key function of the unconscious mind during this period is connecting ideas.

How do you know when to move to this stage? Basically when you become distracted and bored. This is usually your mind telling you to take a break and let incubation begin. This phase can take an hour, a day, a week, a month….who knows how long? What you will know however, is when this phase ends, as it always ends with a bang.

Stage 3: Illumination

This is the “aha” moment of inspiration seemingly out of no-where, often while doing something totally unrelated—like taking a shower, or walking your dog. This is when the new idea or solution passes from the unconscious mind to the conscious. This is the time to write like crazy documenting your new idea.

Stage 4: Implementation & Verification

This is the phase where your new idea takes form and you begin the testing process to see if it works. If it’s a new business or product, this is when you write the business plan. This is when you ask if you have the skills and resources needed to make it work. This is the time to consult experts, do market research, get feedback from friends, and put your idea to the test. Scary, but essential!

Stage 5: Release into The Wild

And finally, once your idea is ready for the world, release it into the wild.

What’s your process? How do you generate ideas?

Image credit: Marlon Bunday