How to Come Up With a Great Idea

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In this video, I let you in on the secret to coming up with a great idea!

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hey everybody, Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™, and today I want to tackle one of the big questions—and the question is this: What's the secret to coming up with a great idea?

You know, don't you want to be that person—don't we all want to be that person—wouldn't that be cool to be the person that comes up with, like, the really great idea? Solar power, Netflix, potato chips that stack in a can? Wouldn't that be cool?

Okay, so what's the secret to that? What's the secret to coming up with a great idea?

Well, it turns out that the answer—like like so many things in life—is actually deceptively simple, and here it is.

The secret to coming up with a great idea is coming up with a lot of ideas!

I told you it was simple.

I'll give you an example. Uh, you may know this, but for 15 years I was the executive producer of the longest running, highest rated locally produced comedy TV show in the country. It was called Almost Live!, and we had a segment on Almost Live! called The Late Report. It was our fake newscast, it was kind of, it was our version of SNL's Weekend Update. And on every Late Report, every Late Report consisted of roughly eight jokes, okay? So keep that in mind. Eight jokes a week.

Well, depending on the year, I could have anywhere from eight to ten writers working with me, each of whom, every week, submitted roughly 20 jokes for The Late Report. So let's say we had 10 writers, each submitting 20 jokes—that's, carry the 3 and—200 jokes! We got 200 jokes out of which we used how many? Very good, you were paying attention. Eight. Eight out of two hundred. That's four percent, and I know that because I checked it on the calculator on my iPhone. Four percent! That means we rejected 96 percent of the jokes submitted.

Now keep in mind these jokes were submitted by Emmy Award-winning comedy writers, and we rejected 96 percent of them! Now some of you—the cruel ones—might say well that's a 96 percent failure rate. Well, technically, yeah, it is. But think of it this way: if you have 10 award-winning comedy writers each submitting 20 jokes out of which you only need one, the odds of one of those 20 being great are pretty good.

Now let's assume that we had eight writers and needed eight jokes, and each writer only submitted one joke. No matter what their credentials, the odds of each one of those jokes being great—kind of slim, right? If you only come up with the one idea the odds of it being great—kind of slim. You come up with 20 ideas, the odds of one of them being great increase quite a bit, right?

So the next time you're looking for a great idea—maybe you've got a challenge, maybe you've got an opportunity, maybe it's in your personal life, maybe it's in your professional life—the next time you're looking for an idea for either you personally or with your team, don't just stop at one answer.

See that's what happens with so many people. They think, "Well, we need an idea. Oh, got one!" And then you jump from that from, "Got one!" to "Therefore, it must be the right one, it must be great!" No. Take it from me and my Emmy Award-winning writers: the secret to getting that one great idea is to come up with a lot of ideas. Don't stop at the first idea, don't stop at the second, don't stop at the fifth! Come up with 20 or more—and then pick the great one.

I'm Bill Stainton, I'll see you next time when I help you to Turn Creativity into Money™.

About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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