Ideas are like soup, you need the right amount this and that to achieve the best flavor. Balancing ingredients from unique to ordinary, one can scour the globe for the perfect insect, most succulent color, or some exotic armor from Japan, to make their idea soup unique. But all soup has one primary ingredient, water. Without it you're concoction would be thick and mushy; it would burn to the bottom and make a foul smell.
However, day in and day out you find yourself mostly looking for ingredients. Some for now, and some for later. But ultimately your passing knowledge of these many things is superficial at best. You might have watched a master make a perfect soup and feel you have a pretty good grasp on it, but truth be told you're only looking at the surface of the brew. Within contains the knowledge, background, and wisdom to know how much and when to use the many ingredients. You cannot grasp this by watching nor can your absorb these lessons through your stomach.
So let's take a step back and start at the source. You have your pot of water... what do you do next? You need some inspiration but nothing's coming from this stupid empty pot of water!
Stop, break it down. Time to focus on something. It's easy to get lost in all the big ideas and not really have a strong feeling one way or another. Grab something for now because this will be the way you can squeeze inspiration out of almost everything.
How bout' robots? Grabbing such a heavily used idea like that can be frustrating as it may feel like everything about robots has been done. Let's forget that for now and concentrate on robots and what they are made of.
Ask yourself, "What inspired the Original? We can look all day at how others do robots, but never really grasp where their inspiration came from. Get back to the original and think about what it's made of and where those ideas came from.
This guy to the right clearly had two root inspirations. Tank + human = bipedal tank or Mech. At this basic level you can replace either of those components to get all sorts of fun ideas. (Jet + human = X), (tank + octopus = X) (jet + octopus = X). You see how that works? I bet you saw that stuff mashing together in your head while you read, didn't you?
How low can you go? Now take the "Tank" part of this equation and let's break that down into it's parts. We have a Vehicle + Armor + cannon = tank. Digging in to researching all of these things doesn't just make for some great sources of inspiration, but gives you valuable knowledge on how to implement these things in your work.
Now for the magic question...
What if? What if a tank was inspired by a crocodile instead of a turtle? How would that make my robot look? What if these things where developed under different circumstances, on an alien world, or another dimension? What would this world look like if we discovered some technology 1000 years ago instead of now?
The ultimate goal is to be a consumer of information, pictures, history, science, drama, nature, everything. Taking in as much info in one side of your creative mind to see what pops out the other side. There's no excuses now, you are a bonafide student of the world.
Because it turns out the water is your mind. The medium that allows all the ideas to blend together. That's where all those delicious ideas go and with time and practice you'll come up with your own unique recipe. And I'll bet it'll taste pretty damn good.
Hope that helps, and thanks for reading.