If you’re alive, you have new ideas at work every day: what would make this process more efficient, how to motivate your key players better, how to win that contract you’re after, etc. But how do you generate brilliant ideas, those blockbusters with the potential to change people, businesses—even destinies?

Consider some of the following ways to go from everyday ideas to brilliance:

Listen and observe. Notice what others are doing and saying. Engage your whole self—your physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual self—in viewing your world and the world at large.

Create the spark. Don’t just wait for great ideas to cross your path…do something to stimulate the creative juices. Travel. Read as much and as widely as you can. Make it a habit to meet and talk to new people every day. Or get even more intentional and start a brainstorming group.

Look for problems. What difficulties do you encounter on a daily basis that need a different solution? Too often we get inured to problems. We metaphorically walk around the heap of laundry in the middle of the room rather than move it into a laundry basket, or better yet wash it. Give yourself full permission to get negative. What bugs you?

Welcome change. When we fear change, we find ourselves stuck in the most deadening of ruts. Nothing new comes from this place, much less chartbusting ideas.

Do not assume. Check out your unconscious thoughts. Do you believe that something is no good if it’s not already being done or hasn’t been created? Or the opposite: Do you say, “That book’s already been written,” instead of “How can I add my unique perspective to this body of knowledge?”

Indulge your interests. What are you passionate about? Making time to do what you love not only keeps you enthusiastic about life, but also becomes the source of wonderful ideas that can take you in directions you’d only dreamed of in the past.

Ask for feedback. Do not isolate yourself, worrying that someone will steal your idea. What would the world have missed if Luciano Pavarotti or Johnny Cash had sung only in the confines of their own living room?

Be flexible. Sometimes a fabulous idea doesn’t always reveal itself immediately. Or it may first come in disguise. Flexibility will allow the idea to morph to its full potential.

Cultivate curiosity. Play games with yourself to wake up your curiosity. Why is that building painted green? What do people your age on the opposite coast like to do on Saturday afternoons? Curiosity didn’t kill the cat; it gave him his nine lives.

And finally, be sure to keep an idea notebook with you at all times. You never know when you might need to capture that million-dollar idea in all its glory.

Wishing you the best always,

Corinne McElroy


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