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5 Leaders Share the Unusual Ways They Generate Ideas for Content

Posted by John Hall on October 28, 2016

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You might have noticed that you get your best ideas when you least expect them. It might be while you’re in the shower or on a walk. This is a common experience, and it’s not just coincidence; it’s neuroscience at work.

Your brain is more active when you’re idle. While in leisure, the “Default Mode Network” lights up, giving different parts of your brain a chance to communicate. This is when memories, images, and random thoughts come together to form new and innovative ideas.

Being open to these moments can help you generate ideas for content, too. Without a knowledge bank to streamline the content creation process, it can be a struggle to come up with fresh topics. You need to be open to inspiration because it can strike at any time.

To help come up with more ideas of how to spark ideas for creative content, I polled some clients and other content creators to learn where and how they find inspiration. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Listening to the Radio in the Car

Content ideas can come from unlikely sources, as Mike Honeywell, CMO of CivicPlus, knows. He says the Selena Gomez song “Who Says” influenced his new campaign slogan.

His company provides full-service digital solutions to city and state governments to improve their interactions with citizens. “During a trip to Arizona, the song was blaring and got me thinking about our mission at CivicPlus,” he says.

“The song sparked the idea for our 2015 campaign,” he noted. “Who says ‘run like government’ has to have a negative meaning?”

2. Rubbing Elbows With Colleagues

For Chris Cancialosi, managing partner and founder of gothamCulture, actively engaging with other people spurs the best ideas. Whether he’s at a conference or just chatting over coffee, these interactions force him to think critically.

A conversation with a colleague sparked the idea for his recent blog post. “I was talking to a colleague about CVS rebranding to CVS Health and its decision to stop selling tobacco products to align with its brand promise,” he says. “We collaborated on the concept and published an article a few weeks ago.”

3. Watching TV

Sitting down in front of the TV might seem like a waste of time, but it could be a source of inspiration. You never know when a witty quip from a TV character might be just the thing to ignite a great topic idea.

Don Draper and his fictional crew on “Mad Men” provided just that type of inspiration for Jonathan Morrow’s blog post, The Mad Men Guide to Changing the World with Words. Sometimes a great episode can inspire an entirely new way to approach a project — and entertain you at the same time.

To help make these ideas even more engaging, you can Google TV program names to find out what’s hot or check Twitter to see what’s trending. If you get a great idea, it will resonate with a wide audience.

4. Talking With Industry Experts

Brody Dorland, co-founder of DivvyHQ, says conversations with industry experts often trigger a memory and motivate him to tell a story as quickly as possible.

According to neuroscientist Alice Flaherty, that’s dopamine at work. When we are doing things that make us feel excited or relaxed, a chemical called dopamine is released in our brains. When there is an uptake in dopamine, there is an uptake in creativity.

“This just happened recently at the Big Kansas City conference,” Dorland says. “I was inspired, and I immediately snapped a photo and pulled out my laptop to knock out the post.”

When those ideas hit, you do have to act fast. When you have a rush of dopamine, scientists say it’s easier to get distracted.

5. Running

Zach Ferres, CEO of Ciplex, finds that running gives him a clear head and helps him develop new article ideas. While out for a run, he thought about a book he read, and that inspired an article that offered a fresh take on networking.

“I was thinking back to my early sales training days when my sales coach made me read a book on picking up women,” he says. “It was a weird reading suggestion, for sure, but it led me to the article on the parallels between networking and dating. The article got published, and we received some great feedback and traction.”

Next time your content well runs dry, try reading current articles, listening to new songs, or having thoughtful conversations to get your neurons firing. But most importantly, always be ready. You never know when your best content idea will strike.


Want to hear more from John? Join us for his Small Giants Fishbowl on November 2nd at 3 pm EST on creating habits to stay top-of-mind.Want to hear more from John? Join us for his Small Giants Fishbowl on November 2nd at 3 pm EST for a discussion on creating habits that keep you and your company top of mind. Learn how to unlock potential opportunity through meaningful relationships. Register today!

Topics: Leadership, Personal Brand, Thought Leadership, Content

About John Hall

John has a passion for building the credibility of companies and individuals through his role as CEO & Co-founder at Influence & Co. He loves what he does mostly because of the talented group he works with.

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