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Michael Gardon

  • Writer's pictureMichael Gardon

7 Rules to Unlock Creativity that I Learned From IDEO - The Break Issue 43

Updated: Mar 13

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Today At A Glance

  • Most of us struggle to think creatively about our careers

  • The main problem is as adults we start to judge ideas as "rational" or not

  • World class Design Thinking firm, IDEO created 7 Rules to help us be more creative

  • These rules can be applied to thinking about your career, or inside your company to unleash your creative energy

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In it I teach:

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IDEO's 7 Rules To Be A Better Idea Machine At Work and While Designing Your Life

Creativity is one of the most in demand skills for the future, and its crucial for making better every day decisions about your career.

But 95% of adults don't brainstorm effectively. I've seen this first hand in innovation teams, and found it also pertains to our inability to think outside the box of our own careers.

The basic problem is we are conditioned to edit while we create.

This is a no-no.

I learned creativity from working with design firm IDEO.

To Ideo, Ideation is a two step process:

1. Diverge and go NUTS!

2. Converge and edit through constraints or by combining ideas

To help teams get more creative, they came up with “7 RULES FOR BRAINSTORMING”.

Be more creative by following them.


Judging is editing. You can't simultaneously come up with ideas and judge them. It's like how you can't be happy and mad at the same time.

Criticism fosters less creativity.

Keep your ideation sessions judgement free zones.

Especially for your own ideas :) We need to be less critical of ourselves if we want to do anything worth while, so start here and give yourself permission to have a wild idea.


Theres a fine line between crazy and brilliant.

Usually the craziest out of the box ideas have nuggets of gold in them.

Even if you throw most of the idea away.

Don't be afraid to go wild. You can edit later.


Some of the best ideas are builds because building fosters momentum.

It's like a warm up for your brain.

That's why improv has a rule to use "yes and".

Another one: ask "why not" instead of "why".

Another one: stay away from asking "how" - ever in a brainstorm.


Going wide can easily get you off topic.

Set clear boundaries for the ideation so everyone keeps their eyes on the prize.


This mostly applies to group brainstorms, but I personally tend to get several thought tracks going at the same time.

Pause and give one idea space at a time instead of crossing the streams

(great Ghostbusters ref there!)


It helps to draw your ideas - even if you suck.

or use groups and colors to visualize

In our sessions we'd use colored post-it's and colored markers to help group and visualize ideas.

Here's how I drew some ideas to visualize a risk comparison between "entrepreneurship" and "corporate." (yes, I too, suck at drawing).


Stage 1 is all about numbers.

In 30 minutes you should be able to generate 50 ideas

Even if you throw 80% away, you still have some gold to mine


Adults are wired to be critical. this tendency stifles innovation. These rules are designed to circumvent that critical lens to generate instead of edit - To become more creative apply these rules and feel like a kid again!

Try them out the next time you are daydreaming about what comes next for you. At the very least, you'll get to feel like a kid again ;)

See you again next week.

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The Latest Conversation on THE BREAK Pod

My next guest is Josiah Goff, Vice President of Product at Tune, a technology for partner marketing programs and affiliate networks.

Josiah has been on both sides of the entrepreneurial journey. He believes that only after leaving behind the safety net of corporate life could he truly concentrate on achieving success on his own terms. Additionally, he stresses that personal transformation is crucial to becoming ready to start one's own business.

We get real deep and real on personal transformation leading to career transformation. Josiah shares the two questions that changed his life (#2 is amazing)

You won’t want to miss Josiah’s journey and how he found his break by leaving entrepreneurship and going back to work for a company - a journey he said he never could have made if he hadn’t struck out on his own and learned some valuable lessons working for himself. Keep listening, and if you dig the convo please leave us a 5 star review so others can discover these conversations.

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