I am loving James blog (spent an hour this morning reading random entries after discovering it). He has some good advice on idea generation:
Get good at idea generation.
Ideas have a bad reputation. They’re a dime a dozen. They’re worthless unless implemented. Success is 90% perspiration. We’ve all seen the calls for help from a self-proclaimed designer and his business partner who have a brilliant company logo and a sure-fire concept for an app. All they need is a programmer or two to make it happen, and we all know why it won’t work out.
Now get past ideas needing to be on a grand scale–the vision for an entire project–and think smaller. You’ve got a UI screen that’s confusing. You have something non-trivial to teach users and there’s no manual. The number of tweakable options is getting out of hand. Any of the problems that come up dozens of times while building anything.
As you read through the rest of the post, you start realizing that ideas are really starting points for doing something useful. Ideas trigger other ideas. This chain reaction is what gets you to start building useful stuff. Taking small ideas, thinking a lot about them, choosing alternatives and testing a few out through implementation is part of the creative process. In fact this is the skill every product team needs, anyway.