When you travelled to work this morning, assuming it’s a route you’ve taken regularly, what did you notice? Did you see the people? Did you notice the beautiful Georgian architecture or wonder about the inhabitants of the 1970s concrete office tower? Chances are your route is so familiar that you really don’t notice anymore. Our brains are so overloaded with information that, for efficiency, we automatically ignore what is routine.
Our everyday environment can be a bountiful source of ideas but to see them we need to change our perspective and start acting like a visitor. A study in 2009 showed that students who lived abroad were significantly more likely to to solve a difficult creativity problem than those who had never left their birth country. Those who travel widely develop their observation skills.
Imagine you are taking your route for the first time… what would change? Is there an alternative route that would be more interesting? Observe others…what causes them frustration? Often we become used to things that initially caused us irritation. A fund of ideas can arise when we come across something that doesn’t quite work but instead of saying ‘it should be fixed’ say ‘how would I fix this?’. Take it further and figure out what resources you need or who you could get involved to improve things…..is the ticket machine in the wrong place at the station ? It’s possible that a 5 minute email to the right person could fix the problem eliminating years of stress. Or you might end up working with a local university to develop a brand new turnstile system. Or it may come to nothing….but with all these options you are now an active participant in your environment! So how about setting yourself an ideas quota? Your goal is ten in one day. To quote Tom and David Kelley of Ideo in the book ‘Creative Confidence’ …”part of what makes venture so business savvy -and ultimately so successful- is that they see a lot more ideas than ordinary people”
After all the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas!