The IDEAS Habit

Our world is rapidly changing. New problems need new solutions and fresh thinking. It’s no surprise that the WEF Future of Jobs Report ranks “creative thinking” as the No.2 skill we need in 2023. 

But creativity is like a muscle. You need to use it, or you’ll lose it! That’s why we’ve developed the I.D.E.A.S. habit as a way for you to build your creative fitness every day. Then, when a problem arises, you’ll be fit and ready to solve it with more innovative ideas.

© Gabriella Goddard, Founder & CEO of brainsparker®

I = imagine

D = disrupt

E - empathize

A = ask

S = shape

The I.D.E.A.S. Habit consists of five daily strategies that can be applied to any problem or challenge. You can follow each element sequentially in order, or you can randomly pick one and use it as a theme for brainstorming and idea generation.

Let’s explore each strategy in more detail.


Often the best way to approach problem-solving is not to focus on the issue right in front of you, but to take a step back and imagine what could be. Being able to create a compelling vision of the ideal outcome is hugely beneficial. That’s because the ideas you generate will be aligned to creating this vision of success, rather than solving the problem that exists today.

Here’s how you do it: Close your eyes and fast forward to a future where things are successful. What are you seeing? Hearing? Feeling? What are you doing? Now, think about how you achieved this. What made you so successful? What steps got you there?


Our brains are wired to find the easiest and fastest solution to any problem, which may not be the best option. Given our time-pressured lives, this is more the norm than the exception. So if you want to come up with new ways to solve problems, you’ve got to be able to press the “pause” button and disrupt your routine patterns of thinking.

Some ways to disrupt your thinking and spark fresh ideas include picking a random word out of a book or dictionary, swiping through your Instagram feed and randomly picking an image, playing disruptive music — from heavy metal to Bossa Nova — changing your environment to go somewhere you’ve never been before, and spending time with young children and joining in the play.

All of these experiences will give you a fresh blast of input and inspiration, triggering new viewpoints, connections, and novel ideas.


Great creative thinkers have an innate sense of curiosity about the way things are, and how they could be better. Albert Einstein once said, “If had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

One of the best ways to stimulate your creative brain is to ask questions, especially open-ended ones. You can ask these questions of yourself, of your users, and within your team.

Some great questions to ask are: What’s most important? What do you want? What’s not working? What else? What if? How might we…? Imagine a world where….?

Asking these questions will help you drill down and identify the real problem to be solved and ensure you come up with more valuable solutions.


Empathy is defined as having the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When it comes to creating concepts that address challenges, the ability to step into the shoes of your users or key stakeholders is crucial to your success. If you can feel what they feel and see what they see, you will be better able to shape a concept that will delight them.

You can use empathy as the basis of creating better solutions by spending time with your users or customers and observing their habits and behaviors. Try to understand how they currently feel, and how they would like to feel. Learn about what’s important to them, what keeps them awake at night, and what makes them feel happy and fulfilled. Put yourself into their shoes, and map out their journey or user experience. Note the high and low points.

Empathy is at the heart of contemporary creative problem-solving theories such as Design Thinking, so it’s always an excellent place to start.


Most ideas don’t come fully formed the first time. They need bending, stretching and shaping, and time to evolve and transform. So take your initial ideas and see how you might be able to connect them, combine them, enhance or even simplify them.

Great ways to shape ideas include creating mock-ups or prototypes of your best ideas or picking just one feature to focus on and enhancing it. The shaping stage of ideas is an iterative process consisting of ongoing adjustments in order to achieve greater clarity, so be patient. Don’t be afraid to let your creative solutions percolate — sometimes, the best ideas come when you’re not even thinking about them!

Problem-solving can be difficult. You can just as easily get stuck along one line of thinking, veer off track, and settle for simple, ineffective solutions as complex, unworkable ones. The I.D.E.A.S. Habit is a focused approach to solving problems and designing more creative, disruptive and executable solutions. 

(The I.D.E.A.S. Habit © G.Goddard) 

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