It’s easy to get stuck in your own head and fail to see potential ideas that are just outside of your field of vision. This often happens when you become so fixated on solving a problem in a specific way, or using a certain set of tools, that you keep going back to the same wells of inspiration over and over, but you fail to leverage the vast wealth of potential creative connections in your mind.
Those “dots” that live in your head are just waiting to be connected with other dots that could forge a brilliant breakthrough in your work. However, sometimes those connections only emerge when you intentionally force them to occur. One way to do this is by the process of free association.
Think of a problem that you’re trying to solve. Now, take out a sheet of paper and write the one word that comes to mind when you think of that problem. Now, write the next first noun that comes to mind when you think of that word. Then, repeat the process with the new word. Then, again.
So, for example:
Website (makes me think of…)
Links (makes me think of…)
Golf (makes me think of…)
Funny pants (makes me think of…)
Clowns (makes me think of…)
Small Cars (makes me think of…)
Once you have two or three dozen words on the page, start trying to force them together and apply them to the problem you’re solving. (For example, how might combining “Links + Small Cars” help you better reach customers with your new marketing campaign?)
This process can take time, but it will force you to generate ideas you never would have thought of otherwise.
Using free association can help you forge ideas you never would have imagined otherwise.
Question: What project can you use free association on today?