7 Ways to Generate Original, Problem-Solving Ideas

Running a business requires creativity. You need to be creative to devise and implement systems that work. You need to be able to think creatively to solve problems – and solving problems is essentially what business owners do. Effective marketing requires creativity. Regardless of your industry or area of expertise, as a business owner, there will be times you need to generate creative ideas.


The problem is, that an over-worked, stressed-out, problem-beset business owner isn’t always a fountain of good ideas. Never fear! According to the Clifton StregthsFinder test, my greatest strength is “ideation,” which means I’m good at spouting off ideas. Unfortunately for me, I am not an Activator, which means most of my great ideas never come to anything.


However, I am happy to share a few of the things that help me come up with fabulous ideas:

1. Look at photos. Just browse around on flickr, or go visit your grandma and look through her photo albums. I find it particularly useful to look at photos of people I don’t know. I start wondering about who they are, what they do, what happened to them if the pictures are old and all that wondering seems to activate the creative part of my brain.

2. Doodle. Draw stick people, kitty cats, frownie faces, weird shapes or whatever. Again, this just seems to unlock something in my brain – coloring books work just as well, if you don’t like the idea of freehand doodling.

3. Do some word association. Make it like a game, though, not all formal. Start out with a word, any word, and write it on a piece of paper. Then, write other words that seem related all around or in a list or whatever you want. Do it with two or three words that are not at all related to your problem, then try it with a few words related to your current issue that demands a creative solution.

4. Crowdsource. This one can be tricky. There have been times that other people come up with such great ideas my own seem to just dry up, but other times other people fuel my own creativity.

5. Play with a toy. Those little desk toys and tiny zen gardens are popular for a reason. Doing something with your hands really can help free your mind. I don’t know if it’s a meditation thing or what, but it works.

6. Make lists. This one is probably not as much fun as some of the others, but it often works for me. As with the word association, I start out with a list that is unrelated to the problem at hand. Usually a few ideas relevant to the current problem will start popping  into my head, so I start another list to keep up with those ideas. Most of the time, I have to keep working on unrelated lists (groceries, chores to be done at home, items of clothing I’d like to buy, just whatever) in order to keep the random problem-related ideas coming. It’s almost like I’m tricking my brain into solving thinking up useful ideas.

7. Be open. When you are generating ideas, it’s important to think up as many possible solutions as you can. They won’t all be good or practical or at all useful, but don’t focus on that. Just think up as many ways to approach your problem as possible. You can go back later and cross off the silly ones.


This is a short list. There are probably a million more ways to spur your creativity when you need to come up with original ideas that can solve problems. Do you have any tried and true methods to help you prime the creative pump? Or, conversely, is there anything that stops the flow of ideas every time? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *