One thing common to much research is that the researcher must be the first person ever to have some thought. How do you think of something that has never been thought of? There seems to be no methodical manner of doing this, but there are some tricks.
- The easiest method is to just have some connection come to you. There is a trick here however: you should write it down and fill out the idea immediately because it can just as easily go away.
- A harder method is to set aside a block of time and simply think about an idea. Distraction elimination is essential here because thinking about the unthought is hard work which your mind will avoid.
- Another common method is in conversation. Sometimes the process of verbalizing implies new ideas come up and sometimes whoever you are talking to replies just the right way. This method is dangerous though—you must speak to someone who helps you think rather than someone who occupies your thoughts.
- Try to rephrase the problem so the answer is simple. This is one aspect of giving up. Failing fast is better than failing slow.
There are also general ‘context development’ techniques which are not specifically helpful for your problem, but which are generally helpful for related problems.
- Understand the multiple motivations for working on some topic, when they exist.
- Question the “rightness” of every related thing. This is fundamental to finding good judgement in what you work on.
- Let a little bit of chaos into your life. Once in awhile, attend a random conference, talk to people who you would not otherwise talk to, etc…