Cognitive scientists say our short term memories can only hold on to between five and nine things at any one time. Which means, if you have a brilliant insight on how to solve your company’s supply chain problems and your brain is already at capacity, that great idea could be bounced by a fleeting thought, like “Wonder what I should have for lunch?”
This isn’t likely to happen at the new Stanford d.school. The entire space is designed for idea capture, with whiteboard walls, Post-it Notes proliferating like confetti, big 3-M pads of paper, and markers and crayons readily at hand.
Some creepy Stanford guy brainstorming in the “White Room”.
In the most radical, Zen-like space in the place, a small room, furnished only with a big white ottoman, is literally painted in whiteboard paint. If your ideas outgrow the walls, brainstorm on down to the floor.
“This white room is one of our most-used spaces,” says d.school executive director George Kembel (above). “Your ideas are the color that fill the room.”
I would add this to my list of Top 5 Places To Find Inspiration. Although there’s a chance that the first 30 minutes in that room would be restraining myself from drawing inappropriate figures akin to those in Superbad.
I found an interview of Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar. It’s awesome to see into the mind of the guy who is successfully managing one of the most creative companies on the planet. See a selection of quotes and the interview here.
To be creative, you can’t be confined to an office.
An office is for linear work.
It’s for completing tasks.
Not creative thinking.
To find that big idea you need stimulus.
You need to see things.
You need to interact with people.
You need to play.
So where do you go to find that stuff? Well, here’s my top five:
1. A Baseball Game
Sure, sometimes the game is boring, but that gives you plenty of time to do other stuff. Like people watch. Observe what moves the crowd. The leader and follower effect of some jerk heckling. People scrambling over a $2 fly ball because it’s more than a ball – it’s a trophy and a memory. Watch 20 year old students work the hustle in the 50/50 draw or the old guy selling overpriced beer and ice cream. It’s commerce in it’s finest.
2. A Bar
Of course I’m going to mention a bar on this list. Look at the name of this site. It’s Idea Drunk. What did you expect? But there is some truth to the notion that indulging in a libation or two can help get the creative juices flowing. Just ask Hemmingway. But a bar is also a great place to observe social interactions. Look around. See if you can see who is commanding respect in the room. Why are they able to do it? Do they have authority? Are they the boss? Are they attractive? Or is it just how they speak and carry themselves? How can you leverage that to solve your problem in a creative way?
3. The Country
Getting out of the city can help you gain perspective. The people are different. The culture is different. The pace of life is different. There are no sirens blaring past your apartment. There are no distractions. It allows you to get away from it all, unplug your BlackBerry and be alone with your thoughts. To focus solely on the problem that you are trying to solve.
4. A Magazine Rack
I love magazine racks. They let you stand back and take a quick snapshot of what people consider to be newsworthy for that week. You can peer into other people’s interests. You can look into the lives of celebrities. You can see the advice that people are receiving for “transforming their bodies for beach season.” It’s awesome. It’s inspirational. And it exposes you can hone into what your target market is reading to see what is influencing them.
5. Toys R Us
This one is my favourite. Obviously. There is so much to do. So much to see. So many toys to play with. Aside from the excessive stimulation, it does the best thing for your creative brain. It makes you think like a kid. Where the possibilities are endless, as long as you use your imagination.
So those are my top five. Can you think of any others?
Even something as simple as a sticker of a pesky fly in a urinal motivates people to point-and-shoot, dramatically reducing ‘human spillage’ and thus maintenance costs.
People want to hit goals. It’s human instinct to aim for a target. It focuses your efforts, makes you more efficient with your time and more satisfied with the outcome.
There are two people. One decides, “I’m going to make good beer.” The other says, “My beer is going to win a medal in a brewing competition in one year.”
The first person will probably make decent beer. They could develop a following and become a sustainable brand. Or they could struggle. Trying to tweak their recipe over and over again. Gauging different reactions. Reformulating over the years until their satisfied. But it will take a long time. And it might never work.
But the second person has a specific goal. They have something to bust their ass to work towards under time pressure. They study the past winners of beer competitions. They figure out what it takes to win. They understand the intricacies of brewing competitions and what it takes to make great beer. And … they do it all in one year. If they don’t achieve their goal, then they re-evaluate.
Do they walk away? Do they try brewing a different type of beer? Do they distill whiskey instead? Either way, they’re in a better place than the first person. If they weren’t cut out to brew beer, then they can exit quickly and cut their losses.
Remember, it’s better to fail quickly than fail slowly.
The amazing thing isn’t so much the sponsorships trailing Tiger–whatever happens, you can bet those will take a bit longer to bounce back–but rather the effect he has on everything around him. Single-handedly, he’s probably responsible for 11% of the PGA Tour’s overall ratings–which means billions and billions of dollars.