Some years ago, I read an article that quoted an advertising guru who said: "An idea has no value unless you do something with it." Although I no longer recall the name of the adman, I have never forgotten his words. In a way, they began to transform my life.
The "land of ideas" is a place I have come to love and feel great comfort. Though recently, a dear friend of mine called it my perpetual state of "idea euphoria," which I suppose is a polite way of saying my head is constantly in the clouds. Guilty. I live in an ideas world, and made a living for years by creating and selling ideas. What I have learned, though, is that ideas can remain scribbled on paper, in our computers, or tucked away in our brains forever. While there is value in having gone through the creative process to dream up an idea (the creative process is a journey), there is even more value when our ideas become something real under the sun.
All too often when we dream up concepts we stop at the first solution, but if we keep going and exhaust all possibilities, we never know where it will take us. How far could you push an idea -- let's say for a business or creative project -- and exhaust all possibilities and make it bigger than big?
For me, I knew I wanted to tell inspiring success stories of women to inspire other women to follow their dreams. The idea simply began with me asking myself: "How do I harness my skills to help women tell these stories?" which eventually lead to the creation of my television series,Extraordinary Women TV.
If you are looking to push your ideas to the max, here are some ways to help you along:
Get Different Angles: Take an idea and look at it from every possible angle. Flip it upside-down, turn it inside-out. Get several different angles on an idea. The way to do this is to examine the idea based on a variety of perspectives.
Map Out Your Vision: I like "mind mapping" to explore concepts, and plan and prepare presentations and speeches. This method is a brilliant visual way of developing ideas. Visually "map out" your idea or vision on paper to expand and explore your vision, and you will make wonderful connections. The possibilities for our ideas are infinite.
Brainstorm: The quintessential adman and pioneer of brainstorming, Alex Osborne, once said: "It's easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one." Brainstorming is an effective and efficient way to generate ideas and further develop existing ones. Do not let your ideas live alone in your mind. Toss around ideas with friends, family members or colleagues in a "power think tank." See how your ideas grow... and how quickly.
Get Into the Head of Someone You Admire: It may sound corny, but use your imagination to jump into the head of a mentor, role model or anyone else you admire. Look at your idea through their point of view. What would they say about it?
Technology as a Creative Tool: Love it or not, we live in a wired, technological world and technology itself can be used as a creative tool. Digital pianos, cameras and computers are all advanced technological tools used for creative purposes. Graphic designers, animators, writers, publishers, filmmakers, marketers and photographers all rely on technology. I wrote this article using technology. Technology can also be used to explore and expand creative thinking. The Internet is an enormously powerful and fast means of exploring and doing research. Look into the various software programs available to help generate and develop ideas. Depending on your interests and needs, there are a range of programs on the market to assist with virtually anything creative.
Discover Quick Ways to Generate New Ideas: If you need to start from scratch, here are a few ways to quickly generate new ideas.
8 Quick ways of dreaming-up new ideas:
1. Gather ideas from real-life stories by reading newspapers, magazines and blogs, and watching the news.
2. Think of two or three people in your life and link them in unusual ways to create fictional stories or come up with What If scenarios.
3. Read a classic novel and turn it into a modern story, either literature, film or radio; a story that is relevant for today's audiences.
4. Write down the dreams you have while sleeping -- good and bad -- explore and expand them.
5. Look at your own life with a fresh new twist, one that inspires you.
6. Think of a big lesson you had in life. Expand on it. Look at it from various perspectives. What is the moral of the story? What can others learn from it?
7. See the world through the eyes of a child and develop your ideas from that vantage point.
8. Recall your "firsts" in your adolescent years, like the first time you drove a car, got a job, made love, traveled alone, got a "pad" with a roommate.
A highly creative mind maximizes all the possibilities for ideas. By pushing the boundaries of our minds our ideas grows. Whether our ideas take off or flame out, consider it a valuable learning experience. When we push our ideas to the max, just by engaging in the creative process itself, our wings lift us up and take us to places we have never been. And we learn about ourselves along the way.
Modified excerpt from Shannon Skinner's book, "The Whispering Heart: Your Inner Guide to Creativity."
Shannon Skinner is an author, speaker and the host and producer of "Extraordinary Women TV."