The Wikipedia describes an idea “In the narrowest sense,” as “just whatever is before the mind when one thinks. Very often … construed as representational images; i.e. images of some object. In other contexts, ideas are taken to be concepts, although abstract concepts do not necessarily appear as images. Many philosophers consider ideas to be a fundamental ontological category of being.”
In a lay mans’ language however, an idea is a pieces of creative insight into a particular subject, and is usually associated with problem solving. It is also generally taken to be a stunt to promote progressiveness in a particular direction or for a particular cause. So if this is what an idea is then can we work on consciously generating ideas?
Perhaps this can be done- yes. But there is no set formulated method that will enable us to churn out ideas at the click of a button. Because, firstly, an idea is, to quite an extent, a human faculty, and therefore must be as unique and non-mathematically diverse as human beings themselves are in general. And secondly because an idea is like the lightning- it strikes without warning. However, even though it is difficult, we can learn to train ourselves into getting into idea generating modes using certain tricks and techniques. Here we shall talk about a few such techniques.
1. The first step to generate ideas is brain storming. This is a process by which we think of the idea open mindedly, and then jot down all the points that come to our mind, even vaguely related to the topic, in an unstructured manner. Once we have done this we then try to analyze our ideas and give a structure to our points. And often, this works as a trigger and while we structure our ideas many more ideas come to us.
2. Secondly, when trying to generate an idea related to a certain topic or theme, we need to think of that topic or theme in a broader perspective. When we begin to think of the subject in this way the scope of the subject will grow many fold and this will enable us to come up with newer ideas. This technique also helps in forming linkages between the not so direct implications of the subject. So one should not be afraid to digress a little, especially when trying to generate ideas.
3. Thirdly, if we begin to think of the audience or the people for whom the idea needs to be generated, we can simply come up with a number of ideas that will relate the subject to them. For instance, when we address a person with a particular issue in mind that we need to communicate to him, the first thing that we do is form a mental map how to transfer our message to that person. This includes a thought process that analyses the person and his possible behavior patterns, preferences and dislikes etc. this is basically the formulating of a strategy that will identify the path we need to take. And once we have identified this path generating ideas to create that path becomes a step-by-step procedure.
4. Fourthly, if we need a problem solving idea and find ourselves in a fix when using the traditional methods, what we need to do is stop trying to solve the problem and start analyzing what created the problem to begin with. In all probability, while we are doing this we will be able to ideate as to how the problem can be solved as well. This happens because when we try to solve a problem our mind often becomes fixated on the problem and so we are unable to come up with a or any solution.
5. Last but not the least, ideas click best when we are not trying too hard to look for them. This is the time when our mind when our mind is not fatigued or over burdened by pressures of work and dead-lines etc. So when it seems like your mind is simply not working, try sleeping over it, or do something that u find relaxing. More often than not, the idea that you need will come to you then.
To conclude I would like to add that an idea, if nothing else, is still a creative piece of inspiration. And anything that is creative, and is inspirational in any way is of great value. And now that we know how we can train ourselves to think creatively (=ideate) we will soon realize that when thinking often some brilliant ideas tend to come to us when we do not need them. However, this is the time when we need to realize that even these ideas are of immense value, and therefore must not be wasted. They must be stored and preserved for later use. After all “an idea can… change your life!”