Today I’m brainstorming ideas for contests my nonprofit can run to increase our membership, web traffic and email blast open rate. I decided it was time for me to work on that, so I opened up a Word document—then I sat there and stared at the blank page. After a few minutes of that, it occurred to me that ideas weren’t going to materialize out of thin air, so I better do some research on the topic.
This made me think of the fact that ideas don’t happen in a vacuum. Just like your body needs to be fed if you’re planning to do manual labor, your mind needs to be fed if you’re planning to generate ideas. This is how it always worked when I was in grad school. The more I read, the more I would start to generate my own thoughts, concepts, philosophies. The odd thing is that sometimes I’d be reading a critical article on a piece of literature, and I would start to have a flood of thoughts regarding my own interpretation of the primary work that were completely unrelated to what I had just read. I’m still not sure how that works (because what is going on is at such a deep subconscious level), but it works.
When you need to come up with an idea or a new perspective or a solution to a problem, read read read read. Last night I was reading Today We Are Rich, and Tim Sanders discusses how CEOs and industry leaders read voraciously. He did a survey that showed that CEOs, COOs, and CFOs read six times as many books as the average businessperson. And I have a feeling those same folks were reading that much before they achieved those positions. Ideas come about in context. And reading gives you that context.
Speaking of…I better get back to reading about contests for nonprofits.