How do you generate your best ideas?

We all want to have that crazy idea that changes everything for the better. Though ideas are a dime a dozen, in the big scheme of things ideas aren’t that important; there is no innovation without execution. Still, it all starts with an idea. Therefore, our future depends in our ability to generate, capture and develop those insights.

I was recently asked about how I get my best ideas. Frankly, even though I write a blog that’s focused on creating and executing game-changing ideas, I’ve never thought about it to the point of writing it down.

For me, how I generate my best ideas comes down to being passive aggressive.

Here then is how I get my best ideas:

Read, ask, listen, observe, experiment and reflect

If you’ve followed me on Twitter for some time you’ll notice that I read a lot and have a wide range of interests. It isn’t an accident, I have a hungry mind and will read whatever I can get my hands on; no matter what topic it is.

I’ll also sign up for random courses on Coursera, such as archeology and song writing, to learn stuff I’m curious about. While reading about new things I develop a list of “What? How? When? Who?”questions about the topic to be able to understand it holistically.

I’ll also look up people on Twitter who are passionate about a specific topic to ask them questions and even jump on Skype to have a conversation with them; they usually oblige. Talking to actual people helps me understand the topic further because I can get answers to my questions; and even get answers to questions I hadn’t thought about before.

More that anything, I want to immerse myself in the topic/challenge and actually do something such as take something apart, make a prototype, etc..

I also like taking long walks, sitting at a park / mall and observing people. You can learn a lot from just sitting and observing, without any judgment on agenda, just observe and listen to people’s behavior.

When it comes to capturing ideas, I use Evernote and a Moleskine notebook to capture ideas in the form of text, audio, video or sketches. And when the time comes to dump ideas and start playing around with them, I use a combination of Evernote and Mindjet to help me connect the dots.

When I’m stuck and can’t get traction on an idea (who doesn’t?), I take a step back and forget about it by doing something completely unrelated. So that means washing dishes, reading a novel, taking a shower, driving; that’s where I get those ideas.

Then three’s the uncommon habit of going to a Barnes and Nobles the first week of every month to read the newest magazines for that month; no matter the topic. I want to bombard my brain with as much varied knowledge as possible that I can make uncommon connections that I might combine into something new.

So that’s a little bit of how I generate my best ideas.

Bottom line: My process is nothing out of the ordinary. Creativity is hard work, that’s why the best leaders are pattern thinkers; they are infinitely curious.