Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

How Can Writers Find New Ideas?


Reading about how-to-write can get stale, especially with the current trend of people borrowing ideas from each other and trying to dress them up in slightly different clothes… 

Finding New Ideas

Image Courtesy of Crissie Hardy ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/cris_aphi

Discovering new ideas for your writing usually takes more than a little effort.

It also usually means talking, at length, with other people.

So, why would I use an image of a bunch of matches for this post?

Think of the matches as people, each one capable, with enough friction, of bursting into flame; and, each one with a new flame capable of making others find their flames, too.

But there’s one thing wrong with that image—all those matches should be different from each other—very different.

Also, if you don’t know a group of people with different capabilities, you could create a few characters in your mind and have a deep conversation with them :-)

The article I’ll share with you today says, “…research from Kellogg shows that the cost of thinking with people like you hurts the rate of innovation – as measured by new ideas — by 15%. Thinking with people different from you improves the quality of decisions by nearly 50%.”

The article is about business people getting together—groups with radically different people—to find new solutions for business problems.

But just as a writer can watch a movie and be inspired, or listen to a painter talk about their work and come away with a new idea for a book, or listen to some music and suddenly have a new way to twist a plot, a writer can learn from what business people do

I’ve shared information from Nilofer Merchant here before and today I’m sharing her article, To Find New Ideas, Innovate, Etc.

The article is all about how to structure a group of people for maximum generation of new ideas; and, the first important principle is how different the people must be.

As a writer, can you find a group of people (even if rather small), people from different backgrounds, with different professions, who could help you spark some radically new ideas?

No? Then, can you create that group in your mind like you create characters for a story?

How about just one character?

From my own experience, I know that creating a character in my mind who’s radically different from me, then having a deep discussion with them, has helped spark new ideas—every time

I urge anyone who’s stuck for new ideas to go read Nilofer’s article and, for those who tend to not take links out of a blog post, I’ll share just a few more excerpts to encourage you to read the full piece:

“…being exposed to a range of people and experiences is an important part of how we find new ideas, and innovate. And it is working thru the related discomfort that leads to learning.”

“You don’t just drift into better behavior. You have to be intentional and deliberate.”

“Innovation is, most fundamentally, a people-based process.”

“To learn something new, you have to be uncomfortable.”

“When assumptions aren’t challenged, when questions aren’t posed, when new ideas aren’t thoroughly considered…you don’t invent a new solution to an old problem.”

Now that I think about it, those quotes from the article might have scared a few folks away :-)
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