#Plywords on Ideation :: 3 Unspoken Truths About Generating New Ideas :: KEVIN JENNINGS

“You’re an idea guy.”

I’ve heard this statement for years now. It’s been used as both a sincere and backhanded compliment. As a result, I ran from the title ‘dreamer,’ but the truth is, I am one. In fact, when I was in college, one of my favorite social activities was to brainstorm ideas of potential businesses and nonprofits with friends. Then, we’d write each idea in notebooks I still have today.

Over time, I’ve encountered these three unspoken truths about generating ideas:

1. Ideation is an act, not a skill. It’s the sum of multiple skills.

Ideation is more like driving a car than it is lightning striking. Driving requires hand-eye coordination, motor skills, eyesight, knowledge of how to operate a vehicle, awareness of other vehicles, road signs, etc. Driving is the act of combining and using those skills to operate a car. Similarly, ideation is the composite of various soft skills:

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Self-awareness

  • Critical thinking

  • Problem solving

  • Empathy

  • Communication (which contains its own subset of skills such as listening, writing, body language, verbal communication,and physical communication)

Make ideation a muscle that operates from memory.

2. Ideation reveals the heart of the ideator.

Creativity was missing from the list. Why? By definition, creativity is the ability to create, which we all possess. Therefore, 1) we’re all creative and 2) creativity isn’t a roadblock to ideation. However, our belief in our creativity is.

It’s difficult for the mind to explore what the heart sees as impossibilities. Consequently, our limiting beliefs — insecurities, fears, lack of self-esteem — are the true roadblocks. I imagine a significant portion of us ideate in group settings, which typically further exposes and/or amplifies those same roadblocks.

What are we to make of this? Ideation is deeply personal. Our commitment to overcome ourselves and provide grace to others (when their issues surface) is a key to ideation.

3. Ideation is not innovation.

Novelty characterizes innovation. As Jason Dyba, the creative project manager for Passion Conferences, recently told me, “Ideation under the pressure of innovation is unnecessary.” It’s true. We often hunt for the new when better will do.

Better matters because life matters. Life is measured by the quality of our experiences, relationships, and contributions. Let’s create better quality experiences, relationships, and contributions for ourselves and others.

Ideation is a gateway to better.