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My Favorite Way for Coming Up With New Ideas (and How to Generate Your Own)

Consider these three facts:

      • The best pizzeria in the world doesn’t use menus that’s how easy they make it for you to decide – Marinara or Margherita.
      • Growing lavender is a gradual process that takes some nurturing if you want it to last for years.
      • Shakespeare is the master of capturing and holding an audience’s attention.

So: pizza, plants and playwrights – what does that have to do with content marketing?

Quite a lot actually.

These three P’s are valuable ways of getting your customers to say yes, writing evergreen content and keeping your readers engaged.

While they may not seem related on the surface, they’re excellent ways of understanding the ins and outs of content marketing.

How does unrelated Thing 1 explain Thing 2?

When you take something you already know (Thing 1) and apply it to something you don’t yet understand (Thing 2), you begin connecting the dots and drawing conclusions based on their similarities.

Two ideas don’t have to be twins to be related.

Recently, and quite excitedly, I learned there’s a name for this method of connecting the dots called exaptation.

According to Trello, exaptation is “the ability to reach beyond a specific field of expertise and concoct new uses for an older thing.”

Originally used by biologists to explain the evolution of a trait over time, exaptation can also benefit content creators during the ideation phase.

All you need to do is look beyond your field of expertise and apply a completely separate concept, skill or practice to the idea you’re trying to bring to life.

Examples of exaptation

Now that you know how exaptation works, let’s come up with some real-life examples for your own site.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned pizza’s power to persuade its customers and lavender’s link to a successful content strategy. These are just two occasions I used exaptation on my own blog, but here are some other ideas to help you craft unique, compelling articles:

      • Use a TV character or movie scene to explain how your customer will benefit from using your product
      • Pick a cuisine or dish to describe the “ingredients” of your service
      • Apply patterns or relationships found in nature to your client’s needs and subsequent solution

As you can guess, there are endless cross-disciplinary connections you can make; just remember to choose ones that will resonate with your readers. Forming a bond between your message and a 1980s sitcom, for instance, isn’t going to click with a Gen Z audience.

Will readers get the correlation you’re trying to make?

So before tying two things together, always ask: who are you speaking to and will they make the connection?

Also, as a rule of thumb, if a connection feels forced, don’t use it.

To prevent forcing a connection, try and think of different ways the two ideas can be joined. Or explore new links and choose the one that works best with your topic.

Mastering exaptation

How do you get better at linking two things that aren’t visibly related?

By first collecting as many forms of inspiration as possible.

Whether that’s a quote you came across in a novel, an observation you made while walking the dog or a painter whose work you admire, put them somewhere you can easily go back to.

For me, that means writing things down in my notebook or phone, taking photos of captions and images and bookmarking online articles and art I find interesting.

Because in my experience, the more intriguing ideas I collect, the easier it is to see correlations between two separate spheres.

Soon enough your content treasure chest will be overflowing with ideas and people will be calling you the Master Exapter!

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