Five Places to Spot a Good Idea

One of my regular blog reads is writer Stephen Pressfield, who it  seems has a door permanently cracked open to the creative netherlands. He recently published a post on how he gets ideas. Here’s a one sentence summary of the post:

Great ideas are everywhere. It’s your job to learn how to spot them. 

Creativity is all around us. The “Two Percent” (the most creative people, per my upcoming book) have radar for good ideas, where they are and how to spot them. Inspired by Pressfield’s list, here is my list of five places I find good ideas:


1. Good ideas appear on their own schedule.

Good ideas rarely come in a business meeting whose purpose is to generate good ideas. Sometimes, they appear as part of a disciplined creative routine. Just as often, they eschew creative routine altogether.


2. Good ideas appear when you’re doing something else.

If ideas don’t appear at business meetings, then when and where do they appear? They come not in offices or other sterile environments to me but in relaxing settings such as when I am with friends, reading, or watching a good program. The keyword is Input. You can’t do creative work living on the fumes of an old idea. Good ideas require fresh input. If your work environment is stressful, then you will struggle to generate good ideas.


3. Good ideas appear after hours.

Creative people, or people who are adept at finding good ideas, are rarely “off.”

“Off” is a false construct used to cajole people into doing work for which they are not created. If you are working according to your passions, you may find that ideas come with little correlation to the punch clock. This is why many of the Two Percent seem nonlinear and scatter brained. They’re not flaky; their radar is just incessantly pinging for brilliance.


4. Good ideas don’t appear near tasks.

I actually block in “creative time” on my calendar by protecting 2-3 blocks a week (each usually 3 hours) from meetings and appointments. But, even if you can escape other people’s questions, it is still an act of will to avoid the task list.

Often my best time for good ideas is the afternoon commute home. I am tired but firing on all cylinders. With a half hour in the car and phone on silent, my mind sometimes escapes the tyranny of the task list to diverge onto obscure paths, where undiscovered gems lay peeking through the brush.


5. Good ideas don’t appear with noisy fanfare.

“Noisy fanfare” is Stephen Pressfield’s phrase and it’s brilliant. He uses the metaphor of a time spent observing an Idaho potato farm assembly line, where thousands of potatoes rolled by on a conveyor belt every hour. In the midst of the dogs is an occasional perfect potato. There’s no flag in it or beatific light shining down. It’s just there amidst the regulars and the rottens. It’s your job to spot it.

Where do you find good ideas?


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director @peachtreepres. Tickle monster. Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon, 2015).

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