Where do creative ideas come from? 30 Thoughts on Creativity


There are no rules, you make your own rules, below are just personal experiences, adopt them, change them, create new ones, rewrite them:

1. Ignore everybody.

2. The idea does not have to be big. It just has to change the world.

3. Put the hours in and have fun.

4. If your business plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail. Necessity is the mother of invention.

5. You are responsible for your own experience.

6. Everyone is born creative, everyone is given a box of crayons in creche.

7. Keep your day job.

8. Companies that suppress creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.

9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.

10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need to be praised.

11. Don’t try to stand out from the crowd, avoid crowds altogether.

12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you.

13. Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.

14. Dying young is overrated.

15. The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not.

16. The world is changing.

17. Merit can be bought. Passion can’t.

18. Avoid the Watercooler Gang.

19. Sing in your own voice.

20. The choice of media is irrelevant.

21. Selling out is harder than it looks.

22. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself.

23. Worrying about “Commercial vs. Artistic” is a complete waste of time.

24. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually.

25. You have to find your own style.

26. Write from the heart.

27. The best way to get approval is not to need it.

28. Power is never given. Power is taken.

29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually.

30. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.


31. Don’t think outside of the box, think like there is no box.



Where do creative ideas come from?: Quit picking fights and go make something


You want to know where do creative ideas come from, look at what people complain about.

Where there is a compliant, there is an idea for a solution.

Steve Jobs created the iPad because he was annoyed by how the Microsoft head of innovation he met at a party, was going on about his tablet using a stylus, Jobs doesn’t like a stylus. Creating a similar product but using your finger instead of a stylus made more sense to him, so instead of arguing and fighting with the dude, he just went to create his own tablet, iPad, where you use your finger instead of a stylus.

You are going to see a lot of stupid things out there and you are going to feel like you need to correct them.

Quit playing angry bird on twitter and go make something.

Anger is a creative resource. Whatever frustrates you is an opportunity for a creative idea, what frustrates people lies a gold mine of ideas. Take some time and observe what people complain about or what frustrates you.

In the landmark case of Makate vs. Vodacom where the Constitution Court of South Africa ruled that Vodacom should compensate Mokate for the invention of the “Please Call Me” idea. Where did Mokate get the “Please Call Me” idea from? Makate’s girlfriend (now wife) was a student at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape and had no money for airtime. A long distance relationship, the lack of airtime and several communication hurdles sparked the idea for Please Call Me, a free service which enables a user without airtime to send a text to be called back.

The frustration of a long distance relationship sparked the “Please Call Me” idea.

Are you frustrated about a book you are always looking for and can’t find or it seems like it has not been written yet, maybe consider writing it.

Henry Rollins has said that he is both angry and curious, and that keeps him moving.

Look around you, what are people complaining about? Are they complaining about a certain group of people always being consumers instead of being producers? Always crammed at shopping malls looking for opening specials unaware that they are feeding their consumerism addiction? Then consider starting your own shopping mall, or open your own store, start a movement, start a consumerism anonymous group for shopaholics.

Are you frustrated by high bank charges, start your own bank. Nthabeleng Likotsi did.

Are you frustrated by the media always reporting negative news and from one dimension only, then start your own media house, Given Mkhari and Andile Khumalo did.

Are you frustrated by that the high tuition fees of business schools, then start your own business school.

Are you frustrated that certain services are too farther from your neighborhood, then open that service in your area.

Creative ideas come from customer pains and frustration. Yes it is not easy, but that’s what makes it worthy.

Many creative ideas are disguised as customer frustrations, anger and complains, if only we could just change how we view them.

Instead of wasting your anger on complaining and lashing out at people, try to channel it into making something.

Use creating ideas (writing or drawing, creating) as an approach to vent out your frustrations.

So go on, get angry. But go create something.

The best way to complain is to make something.

Beyonce’s Lemonade album is a case in point.

Where do creative ideas come from?: Leave home…


Lesogana le sa eteng le nyala kgaetšedi is an African Sepedi proverb which means if you do not travel, you will marry your own sister.

You want good ideas? leave home, leave the city, the province, even the country.

The brain gets too comfortable in it’s everyday surroundings. Being exposed to different people, cultures, environments expands your minds and knowledge.

Human beings like comfort zones, we like associating with familiar people, visit the same places, do the same things. While that is okay, it is important to expose yourself to different things, do different things, visit different different places once in a while.

You need to make your brain uncomfortable. Spend some time in another land, among people that do things differently than you.

Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brain work harder.

When was the last time you got out of your comfort zone?

If you can’t travel that far due to financial constraints, consider spending time around interesting people, and not necessarily people who do what you do. If you are an engineer, hang out with accountants, artists, lawyers, poets, writers, musicians, tech geeks in your area. Get to know what their world looks like, how they think, their stories, what their philosophy is. Listen to understand their world.

Hang out with people from different cultures, backgrounds, race, nationalities, religious backgrounds etc. Try to understand their world and how they approach life.

Have the presence of mind to know that yours is a voyage of discovery, to learn and understand, not judge.

You grow when you get exposed to different people and things. Ideas are likely to form when you connect the dots of the musician’s struggles and the tech geek’s potential to produce a software solution to the musician.

The farther the distance outside your comfort zone, the higher the exposure, the greater the likelihood of ideas.

Find a place that feeds you, creatively, socially, spiritually and literally.

Go tsamaya ke go bona, to travel is to be exposed. Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone often, and see how many ideas you generate. Don’t forget to take your scrapbook with you and scribble as you journey. Take pictures, build memories, smile and wave.

This is the happiness of pursuit, the journey is the reward.

Safari njema!


Where do creative ideas come from?: The response


My recent blog: “Where do creative ideas come from?: They are in your scrapbook” brought this response from Mutshidzi Nenzhelele. I like the analogy he uses of ideas as living spirits in the osmosis. Below is his response:

What im about to write has no scientific proof nor religious proof or relevance. It is purely my imaginative thought.

There a plenty of ideas floating about in the earth. Ideas to help humankind, ideas to make our lives better. From time to time, these ideas descend to our level and find habitat in the minds of those entrusted with them by the principalities of ideas.

Once an idea has been blessed unto us, it is our duty to bring that idea to fruition, to reality, so as to enable the betterment of humankind.

As a blessed vessel upon which an idea has been bestowed, it is then our duty to facilitate or champion the realisation of the benefits constituent in that particular idea.

We become custodians of the idea.

Unfortunately, most of us are not willing to invest time, energy, resources and patience to these ideas poured upon us. So the ideas reverse from our minds in search of a new seemingly worthy vessel to abide in.

Once an idea has descended from the earth, it does not go back. Some ideas are lucky enough to be cultivated by their entrusted hosts. Some are lucky enough to escape their custodians as they are becoming stale and outdated. The tragedy to ideas comes when a human custodian dies before the idea has escaped either via human communication or idea transfer . This idea is lost to human kind and dies with its owner. Oh!, the tragedy.

May I not be an idea killer, may I cultivate all ideas bestowed upon my being, no matter how feeble and useless they may seem.

#Save the idea

Mutshidzi Nenzhelele.

Where do creative ideas come from?: From freedom and responsibility #FreedomDay


Today marks the 22nd year of Freedom Day in South Africa. We will never forget the sacrifices and the high price that people paid for South Africa to be a constitutional democratic country.

This freedom was certainly not free. Change came from people who took responsibility.

Ideas don’t get implemented by people who don’t take responsibility.

With freedom comes responsibility.

Freedom is the ability to set your schedule, to decide on the work you do, to make your own decisions and implement your free will.

Responsibility is being held accountable for your actions. It might involve figuring out how to get paid for your work, owning your mistakes or having others count on you.

Freedom without responsibility is certainly tempting. Responsibility without freedom is stressful. The temptation is always to want freedom without responsibility.

The first challenge of freedom: is not just the freedom to plan your day and your projects, but the freedom to try new things, to go out all the way out to the edge, to launch things that might not work.

It is easier to use freedom to go shopping, sit in any restaurant. And easier still to buy what everyone is buying.

We need to cultivate the freedom to make things, to create, to fail, to adjust, to learn, re-learn, to do work that matters, and to produce things that other nations will consume.

We need to use our freedom to transition from being a nation of consumers to a nation of producers.

We have more choices, more options and more resources than any generation, ever.

Necessity is the mother of invention, when the need for something becomes essential, you are forced to find ways of getting or achieving it.

We have won the freedom to do what we want to do, we need to win the responsibility (from our inner souls) to initiate things, do work that matters, to produce more than we consume.

Freedom and responsibility are not given, they are taken.

Happy Freedom (and Responsibility) Day South Africa.

Where do creative ideas come from?: They are in your scrapbook


If you have a thought but don’t write it down, by the next morning it may be gone forever. I always carry a small notebook and make daily lists, scribble ideas and jot down thoughts.

I’m used to pulling my notebook out and jotting down thoughts and observations everywhere I go.

The reason we write things down is to keep the memory. Ink and paper never forgets, our brains does.

I always make sure that when I sleep I have something to write on handy lying around so that when I get a thought or an idea, I’m able to write it immediately when I wake up.

Ideas don’t keep office hours, they visit when you least expect.

Ideas are not the respecter of time or place, they come anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

They don’t knock and wait for you to open the door, they barge in. If you don’t write them down immediately, they leave and move on to someone who will entertain them.

There was a time when I had to pull off the road, take out my notebook and write down an idea.

Have you ever experienced a moment where you see someone, a total stranger implement an idea you always had and then you say “but that’s my idea, I have always wanted to do something like that.” Yep, you flirted with the idea and did nothing more, then it left to visit someone else who entertained and implemented it.

Ideas are always floating around waiting for people to grab and use them. Writing them down is the first step.

If it’s not written, it won’t be done. 

When you write down your ideas, you automatically focus your full attention on them.

When I read a book or magazine or anything interesting, I copy my favorite passages, i document interesting conversations, even when on the Gautrain, bus or plan.

Go to whatever lengths necessary to ensure you always have paper on you. Artist David Hockney had all the inside pockets of his suit jackets tailored to fit a sketchbook. The musician Arthur Russell liked to wear shirts with two front pockets so he could fill them with scraps of score sheets.

See something worth recording, put it in your scrapbook. Need a little inspiration? Open your scrapbook.


Most entrepreneurs keep small notebooks and write down their ideas all the time.





Where do creative ideas come from?: Dad + Mom = You


A good example is genetics. You have a mother and you have a father. You posses features from both of them, but the sum total of you is bigger than their parts.

You are a remix of your mom and dad and all your ancestors.

Just as you have a family genealogy, you also have a genealogy of ideas.

You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see and you can pick the places you hang out.

You are, in fact, a mashup, a fruit salad of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences.

The German writer Goethe said:

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

Ideas work pretty much the same. Ideas are the sum total of the environment you are exposed to. Exposure is important. If you don’t travel, it is hard to be creative if you are exposed to the same things everday.

Exposure to different things, people, and places increases the likelihood of good ideas.

I have half an idea and you have half an idea, together our half ideas makes one great idea.

The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.

The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk, cultivate hunches, write everything down, but keep your folders messy, embrace serendipity, make generative mistakes, take on multiple hobbies, frequent coffee shops and other networking areas, follow the links, let others build on your ideas, borrow, recycle; reinvent. Build a tangled bank.

Connecting with other people increases the opportunity of coming with creative ideas.

This is not the wisdom of the crowd, but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It is not that the network itself is smart; it is that the individuals get smarter because they are connected to the network.

You: “So what are you working on?”
Rookie entrepreneur: “Oh, sorry. I can’t really talk about it.”

Sure, by all means keep your ideas secret, but ideas in secret die. Ideas need light and air or they starve to death.

The initial idea is not really that important. What is important is honing it, user-testing it, and executing it properly. And the people around you are invaluable to helping you do that.

“We were kids without fathers… So we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves.” – Jay-Z

No man is an island, so are ideas.

PS: To learn more about how to come up with disruptive innovative ideas, register for the upcoming short-course starting on Wednesday, 15 May 2019. For more information to this link:

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering Five Skills For Disruptive Innovation [Short-Course]


Where do creative ideas come from?: They are stolen…


… or are they inspired?

Let’s say they are stolen when they are not referenced and they are inspired when they are referenced.

Every artist gets asked the question: “Where do you get your ideas?”

The honest artist answers: “I steal them.”

How does an artist look at the world?

First, you figure out what is worth stealing, then you move on to the next thing.

The history of innovation is littered with people credited with creative ideas, upon closer inspection you realize that those ideas were actually derived from someone else.

Take Steve Jobs for instance, Steve Jobs has to be one of the revolutionary entrepreneurs, and he has been credited with a number of innovations.

Upon closer inspection, it is known that Jobs did not come up with the idea of the mouse, the original mouse was designed at Xerox PARC in 1981. When Steve Jobs toured Xerox PARC and was taken through a number of new inventions at Xerox PARC, he was brought to PARC’s personal computer called Xerox Alto.

Upon seeing the demonstration of how Xerox Alto’s user-interface worked and how the cursor moved around when the mouse is moved and how the click functionality operated as a command function, he excitely and immediately jumped into his car (I bet it was a VW beetle) and drove off to his offices, at the time Apple was a startup in Paulo Alto and instructed his team to drop everything they were working on and start building a computer with a mouse, which resulted in the famous Apple Macintosh.

Steve Jobs had the sense of urgency to implement someone else’s idea. He never wasted time on good ideas.

Many people have ideas, but they do not implement those ideas with speed.

Another interesting story is when Steve Jobs blamed Bill Gates blamed Steve Jobs for stealing his idea. Apparently Jobs said the Microsoft chairman is a ‘basically unimaginative’ person who ‘ripped off’ other people’s ideas.

This was funny because Jobs also stole other people’s idea. Anyway, Gates responded by saying:

“Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbor named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.”

The idea of the tablet that Steve Jobs used to launch the famous iPad was not the original idea of Apple. Here is what happened:

One of the people who was building Microsoft’s tablet was friendly with Jobs’ wife, Laurene Powell. He asked Jobs and Powell to come to his fiftieth birthday party.

Jobs went to the party, reluctantly. At the party, the guy was telling Jobs about the Microsoft tablet and how great it was going to be.

This did not go over so well. Here, in his own words, Jobs describes what happened, and what he did next:

This guy badgered me about how Microsoft was going to completely change the world with this tablet PC software and eliminate all notebook computers, and Apple ought to license his Microsoft software. But he was doing the device all wrong. It had a stylus. As soon as you have a stylus, you’re dead. This dinner was like the tenth time he talked to me about it, and I was so sick of it that I came home and said, “Fuck this, let’s show him what a tablet can really be.”

Jobs says he went into Apple the next day and asked for a multi-touch tablet with no keyboard or stylus.

He got one six months later. Instead of making it a tablet, though, Apple shrank it and made the iPhone. Later on, they released the iPad.

Having an idea is one thing, implementing that idea is another. Those who are able to implement ideas with speed of lighting, wins.

Speed is the new currency.

For Jobs, it appears that great ideas are free, but make sure you file copious numbers of patents to protect your own.

Ultimately, what matters is the implementation, what you do with the ideas.

The Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, and iPad were built on the shoulders of others, but they also were put together in ways that reinvented the product categories.

Jobs knew that there are plenty of ideas floating around, but there is little drive and motivation for people to implement them.

The success or not of an idea is dependent on implementation.

Entrepreneurs should have the sense of urgency to implement their ideas now, not next week, not next month, not next year, but now.

PS: To learn more about how to come up with disruptive innovative ideas, register for the upcoming short-course starting on Wednesday, 15 May 2019. For more information to this link:

The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering Five Skills For Disruptive Innovation [Short-Course]


Trust… Built When Nobody is Looking


We are all looking for someone to trust. People and institutions that will do what they say and say what they mean.

Doctors put diplomas on the wall and wear white coats to say that you can trust them. We trust that the plane will land safely at our destination and that our laguage is untempered with, that the chair you sit on will hold you, that the light will come on when you press the switch, that the engine will switch on when you turn the ignition.

Institutions and relationships don’t work without trust.

Trust is the foundation of any relationship.

It is not an accident that a gold standard in business is being able to do business on a handshake.

Today, though, it is easier than ever to build a facade of trust but not actually deliver. It is difficult to confidently trust that the insurance company will payout your claim without giving you hassles, the next thing you are told you should have “read the fine print.”

It is incredibly difficult to build anything on the back of “read the fine print” or “watch your back.”

When we have to spend all our time watching our back, it is far more challenging to get anything done and it makes building a business, a brand or relationship more difficult.

Are you doing what you are doing to create the appearance of trust, or is this actually something trustworthy, something you are proud to do?

Building trust is expensive. You can call it an expense or an investment, or merely cut corners and work on trustiness instead.

Trust is built when no one is looking, when you think you have the option of cutting corners and when you find a loophole but you don’t accede to it. 

Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.

It is easy to trust when there is no temptation, real trust is built when temptation is leaning on that doorbell and no one is looking and you are able to walk away with your head held high.

Trustiness is what happens when you use trust as a PR tool.

The difference should be obvious:

Trust experienced is remarkable, trustiness once discovered leaves a bad taste for even your most valued customers.

The perverse irony is this: the more you work on your trustiness, the harder you fall once people discover that they were tricked.

Build trust, not the appearance of trust. Build it when no one else is watching.

Like you trust that the sun will rise in the morning and set in the afternoon, build trust that will deliver like the sun, even when the clouds are out, you know that it is there, you don’t have to go search for it.

Build trust before you need it.


The happiness of pursuit


In the pursuit of happiness, we work hard towards achieving a goal, a bonus, a degree, a dream car and house, perfect partner.

But more important in our pursuit to happiness, is our happiness in the pursuit.

We must not only be happy when we reach the mountain top, if we choose our mountain carefully, we will be happy in the pursuit.

We should not wait for the end of pursuit before we are happy, we should be happy on our way to the pursuit.

The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul.

The journey is the reward. – Steve Jobs

A book is a souvenir of an idea ‪#WorldBookDay



A book is a sharable idea.

A book is not the destination, but a part of the process.

A book is a living engine of marketing and idea spreading, working every day to deliver your message with authority. 

A book is much more likely to be a way to build credibility than it is a way to make a living.

A book is a very low cost way for you to spread an idea.

A book is a physical souvenir, a concrete instantiation of your ideas in a physical object, something that gives your ideas substance and allows them to travel.

You see a book on the shelf and it inspires you.

There are moments when reading a book I will reach a sentence or paragraph and I get so excited that I will pause in excitement at what I have just read. I will put it down for a second, look around to see if people around me have just experienced what I just experienced. A book will do that to you.

A book that is very good should have those labels like they have on cigarette packs in big red words saying: “Warning: This book might change your life.

And there is writing…

I love writing because it is the only way to bring the voices in my head into harmony.

Writing bring calmness, there is a certain calmness that comes after you have written that thought or idea that has been screaming to come out.

Writing a book is a tremendous experience. It pays off intellectually. It clarifies your thinking.

A book is a bargain, still. A screaming bargain. You pay R200, R250 and you have something that might change your life. You have something that reminds you 20 years later where you were when you read it.

Happy World Book Day!

Help me!


Octavius posts on his wall that when you have a personal problem, talk to someone, say something to someone, let it out, say it so that it doesn’t burden you to a point where you end your life.

Some people are not prepared to say help me.

Help me requires a degree of humility.

You have to have searched the inventory of your own resources and come to the conclusion that you cannot do this by yourself.

You have to have gone through your friends, family and decided that they are just as impotent to resolve the issue as you are.

And finally in exasperation and you look up to someone you have been afraid to ask and just say “please help me.”

From what I have seen, it is not so much the act of asking that paralyses us, it is what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.

The fact that you have achieved certain things in life all by yourself, does not mean you will achieve everything in life all by yourself.

At some point, you will come across situations where you cannot help yourself.

At some point when things are really dicey and you are on the verge of losing everything, your stubbornness has to give way to a certain form of humility that, after you get over yourself, feels liberating.

When you ask for help, it is pleasantly surprising how the universe conspires to help you, sending people along at the right moment.

Never let your ego get in the way of asking for help when in desperate need. We have all been helped at a point in our lives.

If you want to walk far, walk with others.