Great Ideas Come from a Quiet Mind

Businesswoman Looking out WindowA recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “How Entrepreneurs Come up with Great Ideas,” asked leaders how they did it and where their inspirations came from.

I noticed two common themes. First, that in order for inspiration to strike, many founders said they were thinking about something completely different or nothing at all when their ideas came to them. A full 34% said it was a “sudden insight or pure chance” followed by 23% who said it was “following a passion.” Even those following a passion, came up with the “idea” mostly while doing something unrelated.

What this says to me is that we spend way too much time on the immediate problems of the day in business and forget to just “be.” The benefits of balance have been proven for things such as families, health and well-being, but not so much for inspiration. Focusing on the problem of the moment doesn’t free your mind up for “what if.” If a full third of business ideas come in that quiet space, or space other than work, imagine how many problems you could solve sitting in the sun on a tropical beach doing nothing.

We focus so much on what everyone is “doing” and if you are not doing something, you’re perceived as a slacker or lazy. However, in order to tap into the brain and all it can do for us, we need to release problem solving thoughts and actions and allow inspiration and ideas to emerge. It’s curious that we have the resource for great ideas readily accessible and available and yet we don’t seem to know how to use it or tap into it very effectively.

Think about it – at some time when you were driving down the road on autopilot, an idea popped into your head about how to rearrange your garage or redecorate your kitchen. It’s happened to all of us. The problem is, we don’t recognize it for the“aha moment” that it is because it’s not a big deal in our minds. It’s this process that we need to pay attention to. When your brain wants its white space to “think,” make room for it. You might be surprised by what shows up!

Of course, the second theme, and the much harder part in the article was “execution.” It’s one thing to have a great idea; it’s another to make it happen. And what is it they say – “vision without execution is a hallucination.” So turning those hallucinations into real business ideas requires resources and planning, and most importantly asking for help. Most businesses do not succeed by the founder or visionary on his or her own. A team of people and resources are needed to move the ball forward.

So next time you’re frustrated that problems are not getting solved, shut off your mind. Go sit on a deck, get in your car on an uncrowded freeway, walk the beach or just do nothing and see what your brain does when you’re not trying to direct it.