Stock Your Creative Reservoir Before You Go Fishing for Ideas
Inspiration is obviously an important ingredient in the idea generation process. Perhaps a less known fact, however, is that inspiration flows most freely to those who routinely expose themselves to new and varied forms of creative inspiration and stimuli (such as new ideas, words, images, media, events, etc).
You might say that become a human sponge (of multi-media input) and you gain a competitive edge in problem solving.
How it works: Associative Thinking
As the mind absorbs its new information (those words, images and symbols), the brain’s natural associative thinking ability is stimulated, making imaginative new leaps and connections between seemingly unrelated ideas (Ask yourself, “What if I combine a baby carriage with a bicycle?” and see what pops into your head!) This unconscious combinative play takes place all the time in our mind, and is regarded as a hallmark of innovative thinking.
The daily practice of exposing our mind to fresh, new and interesting reference data, in order to expand our creative range and depth, is known as “Stocking the Pond.”
This principle is championed by Julia Cameron, best-selling author on the subject of creativity, in her timeless book, The Artist’s Way. Cameron uses the metaphor of the mind as a creative reservoir… a kind of well-stocked pond that requires constant replenishment of new and exotic “fish to fry.” As creative thinkers, it is important that we maintain this thriving internal creative ecosystem.
The practice of continually stocking the pond is especially important for those who frequently engage in brainstorming sessions. If their inspiration pool isn’t regularly replenished, they run the risk of “overfishing” their creative reservoirs. Whenever you hear complaints about an individual or a team recycling the same old ideas, over and over again, chances are the principle of stocking the pond is being neglected or ignored.
Inspiration is here, there and everywhere
Where can we find continuous sources of new inspiration? The answer is surprisingly simple: just open up your eyes and ears and pay attention. Mind expanding stimuli are everywhere! We are literally immersed in a rich, planetary ocean of images, symbols, stories, information, sounds, motions, and sensations.
In fact there is so much information competing for our attention, our brains have adapted mental filters to avoid overload. But with a little practice, you and your teams can open up your senses and begin to appreciate those things that peak your interest and fuel your imagination.
A good place to start, of course, is the Internet. Thanks to the web, and the infinite amount of information accessible to us there, we can all follow our curiosity down the rabbit hole, deep into mankind’s accumulated knowledge, wisdom, creativity and culture—available to us 24/7. There’s nothing like a little associative web surfing to trigger new connections that can lead to serendipitous solutions.
Other rich sources of creative stimuli include television, radio, books, magazines, movies, theatre, games, concerts, performances, museums, schools and universities, and even nature itself. Remember Isaac Newton and the falling apple, or Archimedes in his overflowing bathtub? Eureka!
By cultivating a daily habit of indulging our curiosity and exploring where it leads us, we can create an automatic re-stocking system that will keep our internal reservoirs brimming with all kinds of new, exotic and innovative fish.