Friday, October 28, 2011

Unplug to plug into creativity, solutions, and new ideas

Post Bite: Unplugging helps us plug into trends, solutions, and opportunities.
I don't want to do anything today. 

There, I said it. 

You ever feel that way? 

I'm typically a high energy person, but occasionally I just want to check out. I'm still busy on off days like these - there's never a lack things to do around the house that require low bandwidth. I just don't feel like doing any mental heavy lifting. So instead I catch up on the news, surf the net, share stuff via my social media favs, skim magazines, check out articles others have shared, etc. But that's not REALLY what I'm doing...

I'm hunting. Collecting. Processing. Problem solving. Thinking. Experimenting. I'm unplugging to plug in.

Solo sorting
Taking breaks from direct, high quality production is actually essential to innovation and opportunity capture. I'm all for being an active participant on a great team working hard to turn out high quality products, solve complex problems, and plan strategic moves, but sometimes I just need time on my own. 

In his article We’re All Too Busy … Missing Amazing Opportunities, Daniel Burns makes this exact point. Yes, we're all EXTREMELY busy, but to truly innovate, we have to watch, assess, mull over what's going on around us and in front of us so we can ANTICIPATE future needs.

Curve surfing
I know when I do design work, it's never a straight path. I tend to follow curves over a few days or so to get to a solution. On the surface it might look like I'm just washing the dishes or just surfing the net, for example, but all the while I'm working that problem in the back of my head. 

I'm doing it now, actually, even as I write. I've started a new project with Tokii that requires a little think time to process. I wish I could just plunk down the details with the snap of my fingers but I can't.

My festive woman sketch
So while I'm doing laundry, I'm running through formatting and content types. As I'm trying to (still) get noses right in my sketches, I can feel myself rolling through visuals and user experience options.  

Permission to play
In his book The Accidental Creative, Todd Henry reinforces this idea that we need to give ourselves permission to take mental breaks. You don't have to say that twice to me! I keep glancing to my left where Victoria Finlay's book Color: A natural history of the palette is looking rather ready to be cracked open. 

Now I lay me down to sleep...
In addition to this technique, another thing I like to do is go to bed with a question. It's basically the last thing on my mind before I drift off. 

The key to making this effective is to NOT let yourself answer or analyze it. Rather, just visualize it. See it written or typed out in your mind's eye. Roll through visuals that represent the question. People have challenged the validity of this with me so imagine how nice it was when I stumbled on this article about sleep and creativity.

When I do this I almost always wake up with an answer or have some solid ideas to get moving on something I've been noodling. What about you? What do you do to get inspiration, ideas, or solve problems?

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