6 Ways to Come Up with Groundbreaking Content Ideas You Have Never Tried
Generating new ideas is the most exciting and fun part of the writing process. Do you agree?
If not, I hope some of the techniques we are going to try today will change your attitude.
The thing is, the methods that most experts recommend – researching keywords and stalking your dream clients and competitors – won’t help you come up with groundbreaking content ideas.
Why not? Well, if you do what everyone in your industry does, you breathe the same air, repeat the same clichés, and offer the same solutions.
Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting that keyword and market research isn’t valuable. In fact, it’s essential. Creative methods like the ones below come only after you get to know your audience and their problem.
6 brainstorming techniques to come up with groundbreaking content ideas you have never triedClick To Tweet
I. Draw the problem
And no, you don’t have to be an artist. You don’t have to show your sketches to anyone, anyway.
Here is how to do it: Using only simple illustrations and symbols (and maybe single words), draw the problem your ideal client faces. You may include:
★ Your client/reader’s emotions and feelings
★ Their wishes and dreams
★ The obstacles that prevent them from solving the problem on their own
★ What they don’t know or understand
★ The boundaries of the problem (what’s inside and outside the problem)
★ The benefits of solving the problem
★ The context (what’s going on in their lives when they run into the problem)
How to distil ideas: Don’t look at your drawing at least for several hours. Then, when you come back to it, write down everything that comes to your mind.
This is an intuitive exercise, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just relax and go where your intuition takes you.
By leaving the words behind and using the visual language, you’ll be able to look at the problem from a bird’s eye-view and see the blind spots and surprising connections that most people miss.
II. List the assumptions
This exercise is challenging because people don’t usually talk about their assumptions, at least not explicitly. You have to read between the lines and listen to the things they don’t say – things they just take for granted.
The assumptions may be connected with:
★ the topic/problem itself (e.g. Creativity is inborn. It takes years to become fluent in a foreign language. Selling is awkward.),
★ the person (e.g. I’m not creative. I’m too old to learn a language. I hate marketing.),
★ the way the thing is learned/taught/dealt with (e.g. Creativity can’t be learned. The best way to learn a language is living in the country where it’s spoken. Business coaching is useless.),
★ and more.
Here is what to do: Generate 20 – 30 assumptions – no matter if true or false – that your audience makes about the topic or problem. What do they know and what do they think they know?
After you list the assumptions, read them one by one and ask yourself: Is it true or false? If it’s true, how do I know? What happens when I reverse the assumption?
If it’s false, why do people believe it? How can you challenge their assumptions? What examples can you use? Take notes. Then, turn your notes into content ideas.
Listing assumptions may lead to content ideas that change lives. Never underestimate the impact you have on your readers. One “innocent” article can get them unstuck, change their mindset, or relieve their pain – and they’ll never forget it was you who helped them.
III. List 100 ideas
This one is self-explanatory. List 100 ideas on one topic.
By giving yourself a quota, you’ll go beyond the obvious and push yourself to be more creative. The first twenty ideas are easy. The last twenty are the worst. But you’ll be surprised what your exhausted brain will produce.
Here is how to do it: If you write by hand, prepare a numbered list (1-100) so that you don’t have to write the numbers as you ideate. In a digital file, use a numbered list.
You don’t have to do it all in one sitting. If you only have 15 or 20 minutes, see how many ideas you can come up with and then schedule another 15 minutes the next day, and so on, until you have 100 ideas (it shouldn’t take longer than five short sessions).
Don’t evaluate the ideas – write down everything. Write quickly, don’t pause to think the ideas over. Go for quantity, not quality. Don’t worry; it’s not possible to come up with 100 bad ideas in a row!
Ever wonder where revolutionary ideas come from? Here are 6 techniques to spark creative thinkingClick To Tweet
IV. Borrow ideas
Originality is not what you think it is. To be original, you don’t have to come up with ideas no one has ever thought of. You can take the ideas that already exist, tweak them, remix them, and create something new out of them.
Here is how to do it: Do you have a favorite blog or magazine that has nothing to do with your industry? Find it and look in the archives. Take several of their content ideas and see if you can adapt them for your topic.
Make sure the place you are stealing from is not related to what you want to write about. This is the best way to spark creative thinking and keep yourself from copycatting.
Again, don’t overthink it. Just take a few headlines and rewrite them so that they work for your topic, no matter how crazy or nonsensical the idea seems.
V. Find the worst idea
To avoid the pressure of having to come up with the best idea ever, reverse the challenge: What is the most tedious, joyless, useless, or stupid idea? What is something you don’t want to write? Something your readers are not interested in reading?
Make a list of at least 10 terrible content ideas.
When you’re ready, reverse each of them and see what their opposites sound like (if possible, come up with more than one way to invert the idea).
Terrible idea: Habits of successful entrepreneurs (not terrible per se, but I think the world doesn’t need more “habits of successful whoever” articles, I have never found them useful, and I start yawning just thinking about an article on this topic)
Reversed idea: Habits of unsuccessful entrepreneurs (Better! I could play with that.)
More ways to invert the idea:
- What successful entrepreneurs never do (what you never do = the opposite of habits)
- How to break your routines to be more successful (breaking routines = the opposite of habits)
- How habits can make you less successful (the original idea assumes that habits are good)
- Bad habits of successful entrepreneurs (in the original idea, the meaning of habits is good habits)
And so on. You can reverse the keywords (habits and successful), challenge the assumed relationship between them (habits lead to success), break it down and reverse the subtopics (one of the habits that these kinds of articles like to talk about), and more.
You can also try to find something good about the terrible idea – maybe you can use some part of it to come up with a good idea.
VI. Let ideas have sex
What happens when you combine two ideas? A new idea will appear.
You may randomly combine:
★ two of your own content ideas,
★ your content idea and someone else’s content idea,
★ your content idea and your experience/personal story/values/etc.,
★ your content idea and your product idea,
★ your content idea and something unrelated (a movie, a book, a concept, a quote, etc.),
★ your content idea and different forms it may take (a list post, an infographic, a how-to, a video, an email, etc.),
★ two brainstorming techniques,
★ and more.
About generating content ideas
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
★ Brainstorming is a stand-alone part of the writing process. When you sit down to write, you should already know your topic.
★ When brainstorming, don’t judge your ideas. The goal is to come up with many ideas, not with good ideas. You won’t stumble on a revolutionary idea without having a lot of terrible and useless ideas, first.
★ The ideas you come up with during brainstorming are just seeds of ideas. You need to give them time to grow and ripen.
★ All of the techniques also work for product/service ideas (a new product idea, naming your product, a new way to help your clients, and so on). Just try it!
To learn more ideation techniques, read these amazing books on creative thinking:
✦ Bryan W. Mattimore: Idea Stormers: How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs
✦ Michael Michalko: Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
✦ Austin Kleon: Steal Like and Artist
This is just… the middle
Like I said before, to come up with content ideas that are not only original and creative but also relevant and useful, you need to get to know your audience and their problem, first.
After you generate ideas, you need to weed out irrelevant and boring ideas and check the rest towards your Idel Reader’s needs and your business model (to make sure your content model matches your business model).
Only then you can use your ideas to create a clear and coherent content strategy.
☆ How do you generate creative ideas? And how do like the techniques? Please let me know in the comments.
✯ If you found the tips helpful, would you mind sharing the article on your favorite social media? It helps me a lot. Thank you!