“How To Get Ideas,” by Jack Foster, is about…well, how to get ideas. It starts, though, with encouraging the readers to go back to how they solved problems and learned things when they were children – by asking “why?” Foster asserts that we often get stuck by just assuming that we pretty much do things the best way that they can be done, and so we miss possibilities that are right in front of us.
The book is divided into two main sections. The first section is entitled “Ten Ways to Idea-Condition Your Mind,” and it deals with unlearning routines and assumptions that have us hemmed in. Part two – “A Five-Step Method for Producing Ideas” – gets into the nitty-gritty of problem solving. It’s good stuff – lots of practical ideas, lots of grass roots wisdom and lots of real-life examples.
I took the book to Japan this last summer as light travel reading, and found that it was chock full of ideas that I could put to use right away. A key concept that I’ve tried to incorporate with my own team since that time is that for many problems, there is no single right answer – there might be eight right answers, or thirty-eight, or a hundred and eight! Instead of asking my creative team members to come up with an idea, I ask for multiple ideas. It frees up our thinking, and keeps us from getting too possessive about any individual idea (because there’s more where those came from). 4.5 out of 5 stars.