How to Have Creative Ideas

by Dave Birss

Creativity isn’t a gift reserved for the artistic. It’s a process. Everyone can come up with creative ideas. I’m a former advertising Creative Director. And here are some of my secrets.


  • 1 Problem
  • Lots of general knowledge
  • Specific Knowledge about your problem
  • 1 Bunch Paper
  • 1 Pencil
  • Time
  • Effort
  • 1 Liter Whisky (optional)
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    First thing’s first. You need to understand what a creative idea is. There’s no such thing as a new idea. So we’re aiming to recombine existing ideas in an original and surprising way.

    Step 2

    Constantly fill your mind with art, science, engineering, technology, fiction, news and everything else. These nuggets of general information are the ingredients you need for the rest of the process.

    Step 3

    When you’re solving a particular problem, you need to gather as much specific information on it as you can. Make sure you define what the problem is and what a successful outcome would be.

    Step 4

    Start to combine elements. Take thoughts from the brief and combine them with other elements: the reproductive cycle of a fish; modern dentistry; Star Trek; IKEA; politics; eBay. Note down your ideas.

    Step 5

    Eventually you’ll hit a wall and think you can’t come up with any more ideas. At that point keep thinking and break through the wall. More ideas will come. Break through as many walls as you can.

    Step 6

    At some point you’ll be too frazzled to carry on. You need to take a step back and not think about things for a while. Do a sudoku, read a book, have a nap, go for a run.

    Step 7

    You're all set for something magical to happen - the eureka moment. It’s when your unconscious brain unravels the problem for you. If you’re lucky you'll get a few. Be patient. They take time to come.

    Step 8

    Now you’ve got a bunch of ideas. Some from your conscious and some from your unconscious. Pick out the ones that best solve your problem and develop them. Turn them into ideas you can implement.

    Step 9

    Share your ideas with others. But don’t listen to everyone. Some people will make your ideas bigger and others will make them smaller. Seek out the former. They’re rare and precious individuals.

    Step 10

    Decide on which ones you’re going to do. Then polish them. You’ve put in lots of effort to get to this point, so don’t skimp now. Spend time making your solution the best it can be.

    Step 11

    Once you put an idea into action, keep an eye on it to see how it’s working. Develop it and evolve it. The best way to test something is often in the real world.

    Step 12

    You’ll find more information and tips on the creative process in my book. Good luck!