When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a songwriter/guitarist.
I spent hours in my room with my four-track writing music.
Many times it was a mystical experience to hear the instruments combine to create beautiful soundscapes.
But sometimes it was a frustrating struggle.
If the inspiration wasn’t there, I would have battles with my Martin acoustic, notepad, and four track.
The bummer part is it didn’t have to be so hard. We often attribute creativity with picking ideas out of the ether. But there are step-by-step formulas we can follow to generate fresh ideas, novel connections, and new insights.
If you want a book packed with these type of ideas I recommend ThinkerToys by Michael Michalko. It’s packed with dozens of ways to develop ideas quickly.
Here are a few of my favorite exercises to develop creative ideas when I’m in a rut.
The Cherry Split Technique
The Cherry Split Technique is a simple technique that can quickly give you some fantastic results.
Step 1. Break the problem into two words.
For example, let’s say you want to spend less time managing your inbox. You could break this problem into two words: less email.
Step 2. Split each word into a list of related words.
Now we want to break each word down into smaller pieces. Each word is broken into fragments that express something about the original word. There are no hard rules to this.
Here’s my example of Less Email:
Okay, now let’s try the same thing for the word email.
Step 3. Combine the new words to generate new ideas
At this point, we have to list of words. Try combining a word from each list to see if it sparks any fresh insights.
For example, the combination Tiny Note could mean sending short, punchy emails.
The combination Save Message might mean we create templates from common responses and copy and paste them.
Sometimes creative ideas just pop into our heads. But having a series of go-to formulas gives us frameworks to speed up our creative process. Plus, it eliminates some of the anxiety of coming up with ideas on demand.