Coming Up with and Keeping Good Ideas

Having good ideas is one thing. It is just as important to save them!

Sometimes you may have an idea, but no recording material – then it’s time to be creative. Use what you can find. If you are in a restaurant – use the napkin! What about a tissue or handkerchief? As a last resort: what about your palm?

  • Get yourself a special notebook and pen to carry around (and one to keep on your bedside table)
  • Keep post-it-notes on your desk (at the office and at home) and other rooms you spend a lot of time in (kitchen, TV room, etc.) and stick your ideas on the surfaces around you
  • Use your business cards to write your ideas on
  • If you’re into it, use your electronic diary (or your normal diary if you are into the habit of carrying it around with you)
  • Use a tape recorder
  • If you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, open an idea document and open it every day before you start work. That way you can click on it as an idea pops up

Sometimes you may have an idea, but no recording material – then it’s time to be creative. Use what you can find. If you are in a restaurant – use the napkin! What about a tissue or handkerchief? As a last resort: what about your palm?

Now you know that to become creative, you have to generate a lot of ideas to improve your chances of getting to good ones. But often people can get into the swing of generating lots of ideas around a certain problem or situation, but they are all the same type of idea. To make sure that you consider a wide range of different kinds of ideas, you need to become


Don’t worry, no physical exercise involved – we are referring to brain flexibility. For example, you are asked to come up with some ideas or uses for a towel. You may be quite fluent and come up with several ideas, like:

  • Dry with it
  • Wrap around your shoulders against the cold
  • Wipe up skills
  • Use as a baby blanket
  • Line drawers
  • Use as a mat

Although some of these ideas are good, they still fall into one CATEGORY. Because you are influenced by your prior knowledge of the uses for a towel, your ideas circle around the fact that a towel is a piece of cloth (for drying, covering, etc.). To become more creative in your thinking, you need to

  • Look at your problem from a different ANGLE
  • Find new CATEGORIES of ideas
  • ABANDON old and FIXED BELIEFS about your problem

Getting back to the towel, what about these ideas?

  • Cut it into strips for: ties, decorations, hairbands, etc.
  • Wet it to keep cool: drinks, food, sunburn
  • Attach to poles, etc. as covering: umbrella, baby stroller, cat basket
  • As decoration: frame and hang on a horizontal stick as a wall hanging, curtain tieback, add tassels for a tablecloth

Can you add some new categories?

You will find more fluency and flexibility exercises in Dr. Neethling’s book, Creativity Uncovered. You can buy it here.

Let’s recap: to be creative you have to have

  • A LOT OF IDEAS, but also

In the world we live in today where refuse has become a major problem in many areas, becoming flexible about the use of old, discarded, surplus objects and by-products is essential.

DID YOU KNOW that soap, apart from its well-known use in bathrooms, is also used:

  • By the textile industry to waterproof textiles (metallic soaps)
  • By the steel industry to inhabit metal corrosion and lubricate dies in the wire drawing
  • By the leather industry for mildew-proofing (metallic soap)
  • By the rubber industry to form synthetic rubbers (soap-emulsified petrochemicals)
  • An emulsifier for insecticides, fungicides, disinfectants, self-polishing waxes, and many more
  • In the shipping industry as a base for antifouling paints
  • In the paint industry as a base for driers and flattening agents
  • As a lubricant for the molding of plastics
  • As a sanitizing cleaner in food processing

Say you learn to generate a lot of ideas and you are flexible enough to include several different categories of ideas, will that necessarily guarantee the unique breakthrough? Not necessarily. What is also required are the unusual ideas; those that are different from the norm, different from what has been done in the past, the unique, new, ‘wow!’ ideas. What we need to become if we want to break out of the mundane and usual is


  • Sees beyond the ordinary
  • Makes mental leaps
  • Resists obvious responses (the easy way out!)
  • Has the courage to venture into the unusual, the wacky, the strange
  • Has to resist ‘finding fault’ with ideas just because others may
  • Generates energy in order to keep on digging deeper
  • Often has to forget what has been learned before (yes, really!)
  • Has to abandon ‘fitting in’
  • Moves from ‘conform’ to ‘reform’
  • Produces instead of reproduces
  • Sometimes has to come up with wild ideas (you can always tame them down later)