Generating Ideas … 10 Myths You Should Beware

The problem is never how to get new ideas into your mind, but how to eliminate the old ideas. What is the difference between a good idea and a great idea? Good ideas come along all the time and help people solve minor problems in work and daily life. Great ideas appear less frequently. Generating ideas like these require more work to execute.

Check out our thoughts on building innovation.

Great ideas aren’t necessarily the result of highly-paid think tanks or drug-induced vision quests in the desert. Sometimes they are unexpected moments of inspiration that help keep the napkin companies in business.


Can you think of your last unexpected moment of inspiration? We’d love to hear it … please add it to comments below.


Related: The Secrets to Building an Innovative Culture


The big challenge of generating great ideas is freeing you from the conventional, mundane thoughts that occupy most of your brain time.


How do organizations come up with new ideas? And how do they use those ideas to create successful new products, services, businesses, and solutions?


To answer these questions, a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York spent time observing radical innovation projects such as IBM’s silicon-germanium devices, GE’s digital X-ray, and DuPont’s biodegradable plastics. Their key finding? Most of the ideas behind these projects came from “happy accidents” rather than some ongoing process to generate ideas.


In more than a few cases, individuals or small groups were simply “freelancing,” working on ideas on their own initiative rather than being directed by some “new venture” board or other idea management system.


Given these results, let’s examine 10 myths of generating new ideas:


Generating ideas … people love change


Many people believe everybody loves to change and be changed.



The simple fact is that there is a ton of people who resist any kind of change. They are very risk adverse and change makes them very uncomfortable.


How to generate innovative ideas … rewards


Many people believe that the best ideas come where the best incentive rewards are offered.



Daniel Pink discussed research in his book “Drive” where rewards were shown to have modest effect on generating new ideas at best and negative effect in the worst situations. Pink demonstrated that with the complex and more creative style of 21stcentury jobs, traditional rewards can actually lead to less of what is wanted and more of what is not wanted.


completely new
Must have completely new?

Completely new


The belief is that most ideas are composed of totally new thoughts.



The simple fact is new ideas are built from the combining of older ideas. The novelty comes from the application of the idea or combination of idea and application, not the idea itself.


Activities to generate ideas … past experience and expertise


Team members often sit back in hope that the smartest or most experienced among them will come through. Smart is certainly important, as is experience, but the best ideas from those on the fringes of the subject area or an entirely different subject area expertise.



Those who continuously come up with the most new ideas, are ones who are great at cultivating minds from different fields and are able to most efficiently connect the dots. Old lessons from a different field applied to the new field.


cohesive teamwork
Build cohesive teamwork.

Cohesive teamwork


We can certainly find many examples of teams where cohesiveness abound.



But the simple fact is that conflict is equally as important as cohesiveness in generating ideas. Many companies build conflict into the ideation process for this reason.


Related post: Secrets to Unlocking the Genie in the Creativity Bottle


Best mousetrap


The saying goes that if you have the best mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.



This path is not the usual case however. Often the best ideas are rejected initially. There are many examples … here are two good ones. Kodak invented the digital camera and never took it to market. Smith Corona built a superb word processor and yet decided to stay with the typewriter, its bread and butter.




Many assume that the best insights come to us in a flash of brilliance.



The best ideas typically require a time of incubation in our subconscious. We do best when we constantly shift from one task to another to allow our minds to do something different for our best idea germination.


In your genes


The best ideas come from the best combination of genes.



No evidence supports an “idea” gene or personality type. On the other hand, there is a wealth of evidence that shows there is potential inside of everyone. The best place to see this is in young children.


Best ideas always win


The cream always rises to the top. And the best ideas are like the cream.



But the simple fact is that the best ideas are not necessarily or readily recognized as the best. Most often, they never get to the winner’s circle.


The lone wolf


Most people tend to believe that the best ideas come from single, very smart individuals.



The truth is that most breakthrough ideas come from collaborative teams. For example, Thomas Edison had 15 other inventors working with him. Likewise, Michelangelo had 13 other painters helping paint the Sistine Chapel. The best teams are diverse and include both new and more experienced collaborators.


If you are looking for additional resources in creativity and innovation, one of my favorite experts is Gregg Fraley. You’ll find lots of good stories and examples to learn from in his blog.



As we change at a faster and faster pace, ideas adequate yesterday are no longer are good enough. And with digital disruption facing an increasing number of industries, most firms must come up with the best ideas for change or move to a slow failure. The myths of new ideas must be set aside to let the new idea facts take over.




So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you.


Do you have a lesson about making your learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?


It’s up to you to keep improving your ability to learning to learn. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.


It’s up to you to keep improving your continuous learning from all around in your environment.


Need some help in improving the innovation process for you and your staff? Innovative ideas to help the differentiation with your toughest competitors? Or maybe ways to innovate new products and services?


Call today for a FREE consultation or a FREE quote. Learn about some options for innovation workshops to get noticeable results.

Call Mike at 607-725-8240.


All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new innovative ideas.


When things are not what you want them to be, what’s most important is your next step. Call today.


Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.


Do you have a lesson about making your innovation learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?


Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+Twitter, and LinkedIn.  


Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change.  We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.


More reading on continuous learning from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:

10 Different Ways to Enhance Creativity 

Secrets to Unlocking the Genie in the Creativity Bottle

The Secrets to Building an Innovative Culture




Generating Ideas … 10 Myths You Should Beware