Fill Your “Thought Desert” with Fresh IdeasDoes this sound familiar? One minute your mind is overflowing with great ideas to grow your business, and the next, it feels like your mind is a vast and empty “thought desert.”

It is a worst-case scenario for entrepreneurs and business owners, who depend on new ideas to fuel much-needed innovation.

So says Victor Hwang, CEO and co-founder of T2 Venture Capital. He says the key is unlocking what he calls our “Rainforest—an ecosystem of innovation where new concepts can grow and businesses can thrive.”

Build Your Rainforest and Unleash Fresh Ideas

In an Entrepreneur article, he offers seven steps to be rid of the thought desert and unleash fresh ideas as often as you need them.

Be Authentic

For Hwang, there is little more frustrating “than being on a team where the leader is insecure and lowers everyone else’s performance.”

Entrepreneurs and business owners are prey to self-doubts like everyone else, “but transmitting your worst insecurities to your team makes others stop talking to you or trusting you.”

What can you do to get yourself together? “Take leadership training. Meditate. Ask friends how you can do better.”

The goal is about being authentic to yourself.

Bring Influencers Together

New ideas thrive in a place where people make connections. When building your team, you must “foster a similar connectivity in virtual space.”

Influential people who are diverse in talent or perspective will spur one another to new levels of innovation.

Focus on Process

As Hwang puts it, “the way you set the table matters.”

Your goal is to make the team comfortable enough to move beyond their comfort zone. “Do this by actively listening to them, and using the old improvisation trick of saying ‘yes and’ to ideas, rather than a quick ‘no.’”

There are not any bad ideas—only early versions of good ones.

Have Fun

Who says innovation has to be a serious endeavor? “Without joy in the process, why bother?”

By injecting some fun into the process of generating new ideas, you will find “... shared joy builds bonds and fuels the creative process.”

Abide by a Social Contract

Although most teams get by with “an unwritten social code,” Hwang urges leaders to have their teams design a social contract and sign it.

“Rituals unite people and help them remember their promises.”

What should go into a social contract? Here are some of Hwang’s ideas:

  • Break rules and dream.
  • Open doors and listen.
  • Trust and be trusted.
  • Pay it forward.

Give People Toys to Play With

Toys are part of the fun element discussed above.

Hwang’s team has created a toy called the Rainforest Canvas. “Each block on the canvas represents a critical piece of your ecosystem, such as leaders, stakeholders and resources.”

Team members fill in sections with questions such as, “Who are the stakeholders? What resources are available?”

It is an easy way to visualize and act upon our ecosystems of innovation.

Overcome Social Barriers

Bringing people together successfully involves bridging those social divides caused by networks, geography, and language—barriers that “stifle valuable relationships before they can even begin.”

Look for people on the team who are not collaborating with others; who may even be blocking collaboration.

Think about “modifying incentives” to foster better communication.

“Review the social contract your team created, and align people’s incentives with their shared communal goals.”

Use these tips—refined as need be by your unique company culture—to fill the thought desert with fresh ideas.

How do you spur innovative thinking—and fresh ideas—in your organization?