As a participant in the College Library Section’s Your Research Coach program I volunteer to assist other librarians conduct a research project that leads to publication or presentation. What I find is that the greatest barrier to publication and presentation isn’t the research, it’s coming up with the right idea for a research topic. Academic librarians can be challenged to find good ideas that seem worth pursuing for further development. So where do you find good ideas, or how do you generate new ideas? Are there techniques available for stimulating new ideas, especially ideas for research projects?
Rachel Singer Gordon gives some suggestions for finding ideas right within your own workspace when she suggests “write about what you know”. She gives some excellent advice but it can be difficult in the static of the constant buzz of the workplace to filter out the noise to find a particularly unique idea. You may really know about information literacy if you deal with it all day, but what new idea can you add to the thousands of articles already in the literature on this topic. I also suggested some ways for how to generate new ideas in something I wrote called “What Works For Me“, but these approaches are based mostly on developing a keeping up regimen, and that might not work for everyone.
Here’s another suggestion. I came across a new webcast presentation that may be of interest to those who want to expand their thinking about idea generation. Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, is captured giving a lecture at MIT on “Innovation Through Design Thinking”. Listen to this discussion of the 3 I’s – Inspiration, Ideations, and Implementation. I think that idea generation is both art and science. Brown presents ideas that can be used in both spheres of idea development
When it comes to generating new ideas and innovation, some folks are better at it than others. But by applying methods identified by those who do it well, those who don’t can boost their idea generation skills. Sometimes, as we find in the Your Research Coach program, polishing a rough idea or turning an idea that can’t be implemented into one that can is often a matter of sharing it with colleagues, brainstorming it, breaking it down and building it up again, and otherwise picking it apart until a new or revised idea emerges. I will continue to share resources for idea generation as I discover good ones.