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.