Recently I participated in Complex Sales training and one of the ideas presented was that sales are not generated by chance, they are the result of a complex, thoroughly planned process. Today I ran into a topic posted by a friend (about how to have an idea – this post: http://www.fastcompany.com/1702133/how-to-have-an-idea) which presented a few easy steps to create the necessary environment to generate ideas:

  1. Don’t look for ideas. Look for problems then reverse engineer them
  2. Before you think about new ideas find some old ideas and rebuild them
  3. Change your routine. Don’t go to the office. Go somewhere new
  4. Don’t dine ‘al desko’ today. Find some people and go out for lunch instead
  5. Turn your phone off, run a hot bath and lie in it

and the sales training idea came into my head.

So, how do you have an idea and how is that subject related to complex sales?  

I agree that getting out of your routine would somehow rewire your brain and allow you to generate something new but what’s missing is the whole process of generating ideas. The new ideas don’t come from thin air, there is an incorrect analogy to “Blink” (Malcolm Gladwell), the idea that comes within the blink of an eye is actually the answer given to an issue that the brain needs to solve, and the brain offers the best solution without any analysis, as the solution was already there. Or what we call the instinct guides you in a certain direction. Blink refers rather to solving problems than to innovation or creativity. Brilliant ideas don’t come over night and no hot bath, relaxation or day off will make you discover the new direction of neither AI nor the cure for cancer.

What should you then to have new ideas? I would see the below steps as a must, unless you’re a prodigy and you just don’t need instructions (Picasso was amazed by artists that do research for their paintings, he said he has nothing to look for, for he already knew what to paint and the answers he needed):

  • Acquiring knowledge and information, and learning new things. How I see it, you need to create a strong data base in your brain, ready to access anytime you need something
  • Discussing your ideas, interacting with people, not only in your area of interest are very important ways to generate a connection in your brain and stir creativity (how many times you heard someone saying: “ I was talking to my friend about this topic and then the idea came to me…” ?)
  • Taking up courses, classes, reading books / magazines / blogs / the news etc. Being in the loop with your reality is another idea generator
  • Constantly challenging old ideas, analyzing, approaching them from another perspective, considering even the opinions that seem unreal can launch creativity
  • Relaxing, changing the environment, going into a different country, approaching a new culture, stimulating your brain with new experiences can help you create new connections and analogies
  • Practicing creativity enhancement exercises also works
  • If nothing works then stop everything and start something else. Take a break from the work that preoccupied you so much and return to it after you “clear your head” so to speak.

I see my brain like a computer. I give it a problem to solve and then it works hard on it, I push to find results, analyze possibilities, ask friends, read books, research, meet people who are somehow related to the topic I’m interested in and if nothing happens I just let it go. I gathered a lot of data and it’s time for my internal software to do the work. After a certain period of time (it can last from 1 day up to 1 week or even a month) I walk through a park and out of a sudden I have some kind of revelation related to my issue but rarely is that revelation coming from thin air. Most my ideas (from what to do with my life to how to approach a project or a presentation) came while I was by myself walking or jogging, or doing any other activity that frees the brain as the effort involved makes me stop thinking.

With these said, this guy explains much better than I do (and has the research behind to demonstrate it) where good ideas come from:

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/961
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