A Simple Tip for Finding Good Ideas

Do you want to have good, high-quality ideas? In this age of knowledge, having good ideas can separate you from others and put you ahead of the pack.
But how can we get high-quality ideas? As it turns out, a great way to get high-quality ideas is to have a lot of ideas. The Medici Effect (here is my review) says it clearly:

The strongest correlation for quality of ideas is, in fact, quantity of ideas… Pablo Picasso, for instance, produced 20,000 pieces of art; Einstein wrote more than 240 papers; Bach wrote a cantata every week; Thomas Edison filed a record 1,039 patents.

Here is a study cited in the book that proves the relationship between quantity and quality of ideas:

Simonton verified that the relationship between quantity and quality indeed holds true. The number of papers a scientist publishes, for instance, is correlated with the number of citations the scientist receives for his or her top three works. In other words, the best way to see who has written groundbreaking papers is to look at who has published the most.

So here is a tip for finding good ideas:

Produce more ideas

Simple, isn’t it? The more ideas you produce, the more likely you will find high-quality ones.
Here are several ways to produce more ideas:

1. Capture all ideas

A basic way to increase the quantity of ideas is simply to avoid losing ideas. Don’t let an idea slip by once it comes to you. Whenever you get an idea, capture it as soon as possible. Write it down or record it with a recording device. Read 4 Simple Ways to Never Lose Your Ideas for more tips about it.

2. Don’t filter your ideas

By definition, filtering your ideas will reduce the number of ideas you have. Even if an idea doesn’t look good, let it sit for now. Later you might see it from a different perspective which shows the usefulness of the idea. If it doesn’t, you can always trash it later.

3. Find more ideas than you need

If you need five ideas, find ten. If you need ten ideas, find twenty. Finding more ideas than you need is good because you can then choose the best out of them.

4. Produce ideas consistently

Keep producing ideas regardless of your mood. If you are a blogger, keep writing posts. If you are a designer, keep creating new designs. If you are a programmer, keep writing codes. Allocate time for it and make it a habit.

5. Set an idea quota

Related to the previous point, one good way to ensure that you keep producing ideas is to set a target for your output. A writer, for instance, may aim to write at least 1000 words every day. A designer may aim to create one new design each week. Setting a target pushes you to be more productive.

6. Avoid perfectionism

One thing that may hinder you from producing a lot of ideas is perfectionism. If it takes one week to take an idea to 80% quality, it may take one month to take it to 90% and one year to take it to 100%. This is the law of diminishing returns at work. Perfectionism could make you spend the whole year on just one idea while you can actually produce 51 other ideas. It’s better to produce a lot of ideas first, test them, and only then devote more resources to improve the winners.


This tip works well for me, but I’m sure there are a lot of other tips on finding good ideas. Do you have any? I would love to hear it.

Photo by re_birf


  1. I think that quality is much more important than quantity. It is better to write 1 great article than 20 mediocre ones.
    The world is filled with average work but only those that go that extra mile succeed.

  2. Simona,
    I agree that quality is more important than quantity. Strangely, from The Medici Effect I learn that the best predictor of quality is often quantity. It seemed counterintuitive to me but the more I think about it the more I agree.

  3. […] 3, 2009 Posted by Mario Sundar in Miscellaneous. Tags: medicieffect, zefrank trackback Read a great blog post that reiterated a couple of important arguments on the flow of […]

  4. Don’t filter your ideas! That’s very important because generating as many ideas allows you to make a further selection. It’s like you would create a brainstorm but you are the only member.

  5. I love how you’ve broken down some simple steps for generating ideas. Frankly, I had never really thought of idea generation in this way. Great tips!
    So…when you have so many great ideas, where to start.
    Hhhmmm…food for thought…and more ideas I suppose.

  6. I have a couple of Idea-Producing vending machines at home.
    1) Classic Literature
    2) Conversations with others
    3) Questions lists found on the internet, like the one you closed this post with or even as simple as memes
    4) Blank sheets of paper…those are challenging, but once it starts to trickle, it just doesn’t stop.
    Got a dime? 🙂

  7. Anelly,
    Yes, it’s like a brainstorming session with only one member.
    ARTs Musings,

    So…when you have so many great ideas, where to start.

    If it’s possible, why don’t you use as many ideas as possible? As it’s said above, Bach wrote a cantata every week.
    Great suggestions 🙂 Thanks for sharing them.

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  9. […] requiere disciplina y no tener predispoción para filtrar ninguna, después podemos descartar. Finding good ideas Tags Ideas « Entendiendo la proporción […]

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  11. Oh, yes! #6 is perfect . . . so easy to stifle an idea striving for perfection.

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  15. Excellent piece of article

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  17. Devon and Naveen,
    Thanks for stopping by!

    so easy to stifle an idea striving for perfection.

    I experience it myself.

  18. I really enjoyed reading this. My best ideas come while I am trying to sleep and my mind is racing.

  19. Rani,

    My best ideas come while I am trying to sleep and my mind is racing.

    I usually just fall asleep 🙂 Perhaps I should try to find ideas at that time.

  20. Thanks for pointing out that the more ideas I have the more chances that some of them may turn out to be super-successful.
    As an online marketer, some of my articles enjoy huge unexpected success while others flop. But the trick is to keep writing more and more. With more practice I get better and while some articles may flop, some may thrive.
    The same is with ideas. If you have lots of them, some of them might be real gems. Thanks for making me realize this phenomena. I have experienced this thing with article writing but hadn’t realized it so clearly until now.

  21. Syed,
    Realizing this is also enlightening for me. I never thought that quantity has such a strong relationship with quality.

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  27. […] A Simple Guide to Finding Good Ideas I wrote that to find good ideas you should produce a lot of ideas. You can get quality out of […]

  28. I like what you said about producing more consistently, with discipline, without being perfectionistic. I was watching a documentary about a prolific comedic writer, Erma Bombeck, and the amount of work she produced was in direct proportion to the legendary status she achieved in her field.

  29. Good ideas reflect true innovation and strive to bring themselves to everyone. So many innovative people actually belittle themselves by making their idea proprietary, you know? I think there’s something to be said about good ideas that withstand competition and the test of time. I totally agree about the perfectionism thing. Just get it out there and see what happens. Too many times we see how good ideas are made into great ideas just because of constructive feedback from those you are trying to bring that idea to.

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