Becoming an idea machine

This is not my idea, and I have to give full credits to James Altucher. Here you can find a better description to this approach, and I highly recommend his book Choose yourself that has helped me a lot. The two ideas from the book which affected me the most were: The daily practice which helps you maintaining a work/life balance and the Idea Machine methodology. I’m going to talk about how I approached the 10 ideas a day movement and how it changed me.

It’s stupid trying to explain the reasons and methodology better than himself, so I’ll you point you to his post again in case you don’t know what it is about. I don’t know how other practitioners approach it, but I usually spend my walk to work (it takes around 20 to 30 minutes) writing down 10 ideas about anything. Whatever yo want is a valid theme. It has ranged from work-related ideas (how to deal with X situation, how to improve Y product, what approaches can we take to solve Z), to personal subjects, game design challenges (how I’d change a game that I like), personal project ideas, general project ideas, stupid trivia, or even lists of ideas I can use for the challenge. The motto is that there is no invalid idea, and they don’t need to be plausible nor realistic.

That being said, doing it has helped me on numerous occasions. It helps me being ready to some unpredictable events because my wild imagination already hypothesized something similar, it brings new and fresh ideas to try and it trains me to give my best during brainstorming sessions (either formal or informal ones) which is one of my favorites ways to find solutions.

Thinking particularly about testing I find the training of thinking outside the box and defocus (as explained by James Bach’s Exploratory Testing dynamics) dealing with a wide spectrum of test scenarios before diving into the ones who doesn’t feel right. I don’t think testing is only about naming a bunch of scenarios that can fail (which I consider “wide testing”), but also focusing on a smaller set of features where most of the risks are concentrated (“deep testing”). Undoubtedly, training myself every single day to wreck my brain barriers and be more creative helps me A LOT during the wide testing part.

I have to admit that the most important reason, by far, why I started doing this and still keep on track is because I love this exercise. I’ve surprised myself so many times finding hilarious and weird lateral-thinking solutions to simple problems that now I have an addiction. I have really good memories doing this daily practice, especially when I involve someone in the process and we allow ourselves to get WAY out of the box. I remember a November’s night walking back to our Airbnb in Copenhagen when I started explaining the 10 idea-a-day magic to one of my closest friends, and we brainstormed way more than 10 ways inventions to keep our feet warm. I don’t think any one of them were actually viable but… I always enjoy realizing that someone can be as bonker as me.

James Altucher says that the majority of the ideas should be trashed, because if you really had a good idea it would come over and over again during the process, shaping it with more details. As I use Google Keep for it, I enjoy reading them again from time to time. And it allows me to do some cool things like sharing some examples with you right now!

Have you ever tried this? Do you think you can come with 10 ideas about any subject right now? Seriously, try it! It’s so much fun!