How to come up with more brilliant ideas

Richard Branson sitting in a chair by the pool on Necker Island writing
Kevin Wolf
A close up of Richard Branson smiling, looking at the camera
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 9 December 2020

Brilliant to sit down and chat to Adam Grant as his book Originals was my latest pick for my book club with Literati.

Originals is all about how we can become more successful in championing our best ideas. While a great idea is a great start, Adam says it’s what you do next that really counts. How can we all recognise good ideas, speak up without being silenced, and how can we get those ideas to stick?

As you’ll see from the interview, Adam is one of the most creative and original thinkers out there. I enjoyed his book so much I have now read it twice (and I think I may have to add it to the Christmas present list for all my senior teams at Virgin!)

We reminisced about taking on the Strive Challenge together – where we hiked, biked, cycled and swam nearly 2,000km to raise money for Holly and Sam’s education charity Big Change. Adam reminded me of how he was sitting in a hot tub with some of the other participants and I decided to cannonball (fully clothed) into the tub. We talked about how important it is for leaders to be leading – and that means if you’re at a party make sure you’re the first to get involved and then everyone else will relax and have a good time.

Adam Slama
Adam Slama

We also discussed how everyone can have more great ideas. In Originals, Adam also talks about how many great innovators have hundreds of (sometimes bad, sometimes average) ideas for every great one. Most of the brilliant artists, innovators and scientists we celebrate generated hundreds of ideas and huge volumes of work – and not all of them were good and will be remembered.

My mantra in business has always been ‘screw it, let’s do it!’ and that has meant that Virgin has pursued a number of ideas that haven’t worked out. I don’t see them as failures, I see them as experiences to be learned from.

We chatted about how many original thinkers look like they are superhuman from the outside, but Adam said if we look at the entire body of work they have created, we can see that they are mere mortals and it signals to us that we can become a little more like them. I thought that was very inspiring.

His biggest tip for having more good ideas? Increase the number of ideas you generate, and it will make it more likely that you will stumble across a good one.

Literati
Literati

It’s also important to give your brain time to rest. Adam said: "You're actually most creative at the times you are least alert." I couldn’t agree more. It’s why I try and start my day with exercise – I find it helps clear my brain and set me up for the day ahead. It’s the time when I’m most likely to think of a creative idea or a solution to a problem.

Another question Adam asked in our chat was: “Why do we hold ourselves back from pursuing our most original ideas?”

That is a question I will leave with you – I would love to hear your thoughts on social.

Head over to Literati to join my book club.