How do you come up with your best ideas?

The World Creativity and Innovation Week started yesterday. It will run from April 15 – 21. With that said, I thought it would be cool to do a series of posts answering some common questions about creativity and innovation.

I will start by answering them myself and will appreciate it if you add your own thoughts with a comment.

First up, how do you come up with your best ideas?

Notice I added the word “best” to the question. This is completely different from just coming up with ideas. Ideas can pop up anywhere, like while showering, taking a walk or even just having a conversation with someone.

But your best ideas come afterwards. I have come up with a systematic and pragmatic way to stimulate my creative juices to refine my initial thoughts. It’s called the “What Works Matrix“. It’s based on combining elements or attributes of ideas that worked elsewhere, and then adapting them to my problem.

What makes this process really effective is that it is very practical. Anybody can take it and do it. There are friends, clients and fellow entrepreneurs who have adopted the What Works Matrix with excellent results.

I encourage you to give it a try.

That’s me, now it’s your turn. How do you come up with your best ideas?

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  • Robyn McMaster

    I “walk” into my best ideas outside as I “breathe in” nature.

    •  Hi Robyn,

      I like that. “Walk into”. Sounds like serendipity to me 🙂



  • Jorge,

    Awesome Socratic post.

    My best ideas come through the triple ‘S” process, aka 3s –
    simplicity, speed, spontaneity by not thinking at all. Let the emotional cycle
    and creative imagination join forces. Always have the greatest innovation known
    to mankind handy, paper and pencil handy, including by the bed as well for those
    carpe diem moments.

    I find any structure process is not good for those eureka moments.
    To flush out a ‘light on’ moment, a structure process such as the matrix, or
    scenario analysis models, i.e. can shed greater light. That light could be a
    light at the end of the tunnel; the key question is it a freight train or
    bullet train?

    Keep up the awesome writing my friend.



    • Hi Steve,

      I like the 3s. No Mind. I actually do that too, but also think we should be able to produce ideas on command. And if anything, this helps stimulate/catalyze ones own and others juices.

      As the saying goes: Fortune favors the prepared mind.

      The other problem I’ve found (and think you have to based on comments) is that the vast majority don’t listen to their inner voice (intuition). No serendipity, no spontaneity. No magic. You got to give them structure to get them focused. I guess this works for some and not so much for others. Or maybe I’m just in the wrong place and need to move to Disney!



  • Kevin Mcfarthing

    Hi Jorge, my best ideas come in two ways.  First, in the presence of, and with the stimulus of other people.  As well as formal sessions using structured idea generation techniques, which in my experience do work, ideas also come when chatting to other people.

    Secondly, they just seem to pop up when I’m thinking of unrelated things.  I don’t know what causes it, it just happens.


    • Hi Kevin @innovationfixer:twitter

      Good stuff. Daydreaming or not thinking about anything in particular is an interesting process. A very passive activity that one would think is a waste of time, but it’s actually very productive. In his book Imagine, Jonah Lehrer writes about Daydreaming. I just recently went on a short hiatus for exactly that same reason:

      From your experience, what structured idea generation techniques are most effective?

      Thanks for the comment,


  • My best ideas usually come when reading articles/books.  Certainly makes it difficult to get through some of the materials quickly, but I’ve also learned that if I don’t keep a thought journal by my side when doing so, those thoughts could be lost quite a long time.

    • Hi Jason,

      It’s interesting how each of use come up with ideas. If I’m reading on the web I use Evernote. If I’m reading on paper I use a Moleskine notebook.

      It’s a take from anywhere mindset and then peeling away.

      What tools, other than the journal, do you use to store your ideas?

      Thanks for the comment,


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