How to make a good idea great? Sleep on it!

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Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash

I am sure that you have heard about — or even experienced — an “Eureka moment”. A sudden realization of something deeply unclear. A revelation. It sounds exotic and almost divine, doesn’t it?

The reality is, unfortunately, not that alluring. Regardless of what this “enlightenment” is called by scientists, poets and philosophers, (everything from “God” to “The Higher Self”, “Inspiration” and “Muse”), it is a part of a linear idea generation process — stage 3: Illumination (after 1. Preparation and 2. Incubation and before 4. Verification.)

The illumination occurs when preparation and incubation phases get to meet. The best thing about the illumination is that you can set yourself up for it. Science talks about “The 5Bs” that stimulate creativity and idea generation. These are: bed, bath/bathroom, beach (vacation), bus (travel) and badminton (exercise). I would dare to add one more “B” to the mix: beats (music).

I am sure that you at some point of your life have “slept” on an idea. You are not alone. Jean Cocteau, the author of “The Knights of the Round Table” once said:

Perhaps you are one of those people who should bring a notebook with them on a walk? Or who always finds solutions while driving? If so, then these are your “Bs”.

Although the above mentioned settings seem completely different, they actually have a few important similarities. During all of them your brain goes into relax mode (even if you are not feeling very relaxed playing a “life or dead” game of badminton or if the vacation turned to be anything but calm) — where you give yourself the space and time for processing insights from the previous stages of idea generation. It’s actually enough to get you into a different environment compared to the one of the incubation phase to get your illumination juices flowing.

Stephen Johnson talks in his TED Talk about ideas coming to the world “half baked”. Think of the illumination phase as your time finish the cake — if you rush, the dough will not ferment properly. The beauty of the illumination process is that you can let it work in the background, you don’t have to sit and watch the dough for it to get ready. You just need to give it the right amount of time and space and trust the chemistry.

So let me ask you, hand on heart: are you giving your idea generation process the time it needs? I bet that you are putting a lot of effort into preparation and incubation, and then expect instant results. I know because I have been there myself. Once I understood that fast outcome wasn’t always the best solution, the quality of my ideas improved immensely. If you are struggling with your business creativity, then you might want to look into how you are nurturing your illumination phase.

In other words: what do you need to do — and where do you need to be to set yourself up for your Eureka moments? More beach? Better sleep (even if Cocteau came up with great ideas after sleeping poorly, I suggest you go for good quality rest)? More exercise? A warm bath? More music in your ears when commuting to work? Once you have an understanding of the creative process, you will figure out that it’s more than just grinding and hustling.

(good read about the creative process here: The 5 Phases of The Creative Process by Srinivas Rao)

If you are interesting in learning more about idea generation and creative business thinking, join Future Legend membership club here.

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Brings ideas to the table. Expert in idea generation and creative business thinking. SE, ENG, POL . MBE & MLL Lund University.

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