Are you creative?

Whether you’re in a project kick off meeting, redesigning a product or process or in a design thinking type of workshop, part of your job is to solve problems.

A big part of solving problems is coming up with lots of ideas before you narrow it down to one or two good ones.

So how do you come up with good ideas in the first place?

If you’re like most people, you think of yourself as either creative or not creative, and if you’re “not creative” then you don’t believe you can have any good ideas. Fortunately, that’s not actually true.

Here’s one way to come up with good ideas “on the regular” and on demand.

Problems of output

One of the best things that you can do is focus on your inputs instead of your outputs. Writer and artist Austin Kleon explained it like this: “Problems of output are problems of input. If your output isn’t where you want it to be, try working on your input.”

I other words, if you typically struggle to come up with ideas then you should read, watch, listen to and look at more interesting and diverse things.

For example, here’s a really old article about where Apple got it’s inspiration from for very famous hardware products.

The point isn’t whether or not Apple’s Johnny Ive copied a German designer. It’s that Johnny had spent the time working on his inputs that he could then use as inspiration for his own ideas (outputs).

Try this

Here’s a quick example of how to apply this to your own work.

Let’s say you’ve been asked to “come up with ideas” for improving how a branch of a bank works. Visiting a bank is like visiting a retail store, for example a shoe shop. You could get inspiration from how you shop for shoes and apply it to how you shop for banking products. For example, you could have physical representations (like product boxes) of credit cards and home loans on the shelves that customers could look at, “try on” (how could that work?), ask questions about and then bring to the counter to buy.

🤔 What can you do to “work on your input” so you can come up with better ideas?