IDEA CAMP: Week 1 – Generation of Ideas

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Intro music “Honey” composed by NC State student Johnathan Coquedaire.

By Maria Gallardo-Williams

(Listen on Google Drive) (transcript) Week 1 with Amy Sawyers-Williams (Arts NC State) and Alexandra Burchette (Dance Program)

Welcome to the first week of Idea Camp, and thank you so much for signing up for this series! We hope to bring you some useful information, and to provide it to you in a flexible way so that you can interact with the content in ways that fit your schedule. 

We know that, even though it’s the middle of the summer, this is not a normal summer, just like the last two years haven’t been normal years. The pandemic has dragged on, and we have experienced the largest collective traumatic event in recent memory. Maybe you have joined our mailing list because you were intrigued by the idea of generating and developing ideas as we get ready for the Fall of 2022? We hope to take you along on a journey of discovery and creativity.

Why Idea Camp? Because ideas are powerful, and they move us forward, yet we rarely take enough time to purposefully engage in the ideation process. And when we don’t generate our own ideas, we might end up working for someone who did. We don’t want that for you. We want to put you in control of what comes next in your professional and personal life. We want you to generate ideas that will make you look forward to the fall semester, ideas that move you to act and bring others together. Ideas that turn into concrete actions. Ideas that change the world. 

I know that you might be thinking that maybe my goals are too lofty, or that you are just not that creative, or that you don’t have time to engage in this process. I would like to show you that you have within you the capacity to ideate, and to execute your ideas. Follow along with Idea Camp week by week and let’s see where this takes us!

This first week is all about generating ideas. I would like to offer you some resources that might help you to get started with that process. Please notice that generating ideas is a highly individualized process, and that each one of us is completely different, but we all can benefit from some general principles: 

  1. Feed your imagination: As you might have heard in our podcast for this week, both Alexandra and Amy reminded us that you can’t pour from an empty vessel. For your mind to generate ideas (output), it will need to be fed information and (hopefully) inspiration (input). How can you accomplish this? Start by thinking about the sort of idea that you want to generate. Does it have to do with work? Optimizing a process? Improving your teaching? Writing your dissertation? Once you have picked a path for your idea generation, then gather some information that might be relevant. Read widely on the subject that interests you. Do a web search. Open a million browser tabs. Or not, if you find that stressful (I’m feeling your judgment right now). Let information flow in, and give yourself permission to follow tangents, explore dead ends, and speculate wildly. Your mind needs to be fed if it is to produce a masterpiece. 
  1. Foster your creativity: This is the part where you find what works best for you, and you nurture it. Maybe a book on creativity is what you need to get the wheels turning? If so, I would recommend Keith Sawyer’s Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity, which is available online via the NC State Libraries. You will find that you might not even need to read the whole book, a chapter of two might be enough to get you started. Sawyer also offers some Creativity Cards as a companion to the book. Below are a couple of them to get you started. If you want to explore the rest of the cards, we have a deck available in the reading nook at the OFE offices (Clark Hall, 4th floor), they can be purchased online, or you can check this website for a different free daily creativity card every day:

Image shared with permission 

  1. Find a place: If you think a change of scenery might be helpful, we have places on our campuses that might be just what you need. The Hunt Library is a favorite destination if you like futuristic architecture that speaks to the soul. The Gregg Museum never fails to get my wheels turning. Or, if you crave green, natural spaces, the JC Raulston Arboretum might be the way to go. 
  1. Write your ideas down somewhere: Don’t rely on your memory, ideas are precious and deserve to be recorded. It is important to capture them somewhere. Time to break out the nice stationary. Janet Del Pinal created a template for us that you can use this week to get those ideas nice and safe (thank you Janet! She also created the Idea Camp graphics that you see at the top of our posts). You can print them out and write on them, or you can use them digitally. You might need more than one, maybe one for work and one for home, and that’s OK. The more ideas, the better. 
  1. Join others: Some of us are more creative in solitude, while others do better with company. If you think you could use some company, and you’re close to the D.H. Hill Jr. Library, maybe you would like to join us on July 7th at 11 am for an Ideation Session? Amy Sawyers-Williams will lead us in a warm-up, and we will have Ideation Stations all over the Innovation Studio. You can register for that session here
  1. Don’t censor yourself: This might be the hardest part for some of you, but this is not the week to be critical. Some of your ideas will be outlandish. Some will be too ambitious, too expensive, or just plain silly. It doesn’t matter. This is not the week to be critical, this is the week to be creative. Write them down and we will worry about it later. Also, there is no wrong way to ideate: Don’t look at the way that others create, don’t worry if you have too many or not enough ideas. Your process is good. Trust it. 

Wherever you are in your journey, please know that we want to support you. You can leave us a comment (if you have an NC State id), or we will be following this conversation on Twitter at #NCStateIdeaCamp and you can join us there. Looking forward to hearing from you!


Suggested Reading: Keith Sawyer’s Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity

Resource: Daily Creativity Cards

Printable of the Week: Template to record your ideas

Inspirational Campus Locations: 


    The bit about balancing input and output (starts approx 06:30) seems really important. I recognize in myself that I often feel pressured to do things (output) to the point that I no longer have time to read and think (input). That imbalance leads to, paraphrasing the podcast, half-baked ideas that even a little input could improve greatly. And, less frequently, I recognize the imbalance in the other direction which leads to inability to make a decision – paralysis by analysis.

    In students, I most often see the input <<< output imbalance as grand solutions to complex problems are offered after little or no research. These idea fall apart with the least examination. So, like, great brainstorming, but where's the next stage? I also see it as a fear / lack of desire to reach out to professionals in their fields – undergrads in particular are afraid to talk to experts or people their ideas might affect. How can we help them overcome this?

    – george hess

    Great podcast. I think I will go to Hunt Library on Centennial Campus. I have not had the chance to visit it yet. That just might be a place to get some good ideas.

    Thank you for an inspiring podcast!
    Great suggestions for washing/clearing our brains. I like to swim and ideate or even just clear and organize my thoughts in the pool!
    I’m all for “Yes, and”, just need the courage to just do it. This podcast helps in that…

    This was awesome and I will begin the washing my brain process moving forward. Great insight and I am investing in The Artist’s Way book this month.

    I like you comment on “washing my brain.” Yes… I think I will need to do some Brain Washing to get my ideas to the surface.

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