Though it has never been clear to me why it works, there is a technique that I sometimes use to come up with ideas that never fails me…even though it begins somewhat unconsciously. I call it the Lexicon Approach.

Here’s how it works:

1. Identify the problem or issue you are seeking to solve or the information you want to communicate.

2. Begin creating a list of words that come to mind as you consider possible options.

3. When you have 4-7 words on your list, review it to see if more than one word begins with the same letter of the alphabet.

4. If there are multiple words that start with the same letter, continue to develop your list, but use only words that begin with that letter.

5. If there are not multiple words that begin with the same letter, select the word that resonates most with you and continue to develop your list using only words that begin with that letter.

6. If you get stuck or aren’t satisfied with the list you are creating, grab a dictionary or a thesaurus and look at words that start with the letter you are using.

7. Along the way, it is possible, indeed likely, that you’ll have some other words bubble up that don’t start with the letter you have selected. Make note of them and then return to your process until you come up with at least 12-15 words that start with the same letter.

8. Review your list and use it to frame your solution to the problem or to define your communication strategy.

Don’t ask me why it works, but it does.

Here’s an example.

While developing a blog entry intended to describe things that credit unions should focus upon in 2010, I noticed that 3 of my first five words started with the letter C, so I used the above approach to expand my list…

1. Convenience
2. Collaboration
3. Connections
4. Creativity
5. Culture
6. Compassion
7. Change
8. Channels
9. Clarity
10. Content
11. Cause
12. Communication
13. Consistency
14. Community
15. Confirmation

I’ll elaborate on this list in a future blog post or two, and I may return to it and develop it further, but this is the list that bubbled up after about 15 minutes of thought on the subject.

ACTION ADVICE: Give this approach a try next time you are looking for a way to organize your thoughts, seeking solutions to a problem, or seeking a way to easily communicate a message. You can expand it beyond the single word approach to develop alternative ideas around a theme, a tagline, or a phrase. It works because it forces you to focus your thinking, and because it pushes you to create several ideas…things that can be difficult to do when you are too close to the situation.