Ever wondered where good ideas come from? Do you have your best ideas in the shower? While exercising? Talking to other people?
I've always been intrigued about the process of coming up with new ideas. Not the simple ones like new dinner options. There's nothing much about cooking dinner that gets me inspired. It's the more complex ideas like how to write about psychology in a way that is interesting and accessible to other people (blog, anyone?). Or how to help school students to better understand themselves and their strengths so that they can make decisions about what's next, with less anxiety and greater confidence (something I'm working on with a local school at the moment).
What is it exactly that allows the thoughts and ideas start to flow and to converge into a string of possibilities that bring that little edge of excitement, of inspiration?
I know when ideas don't come for me - when I'm busy with drudgery (washing, tidying, shopping, errands, laundry, you know the drill), when I'm tired, when I'm cranky (usually due to a combination of the tired thing and the drudgery thing). There's very little inspiration there.
I've never really thought about the set of circumstances - if they exist - that allow me to come up with good, workable ideas though. The ones that send me rushing for my notebook, or laptop. I know it happens and when I'm on a little creative streak I seem to be able to quickly build on the initial idea to form at least the skeleton of an exciting new project. That is until I get interrupted by someone who needs something to eat.
But often I feel like I have bits of ideas floating around in my head. Things I would love to do but don't really know where to start. Or when I try to force the idea to become a project it doesn't stack up to much more than a set of very loose half-baked bits and pieces.
Steven Johnson, a US based science author, has spent a lot of time thinking about where ideas come from - five years to be exact, and he has a theory that good ideas grow over time from a 'slow hunch' and that they kind of burst forth into a vision of real possibilities when one slow hunch meets another slow hunch. So it seems that talking to other like-minded people is one important part of the idea process, and time - sometimes years - is another.
Well that made me happy. I can stop being impatient and trying to force ideas to become workable projects. I can slow down and let the ideas incubate. Maybe chat to a few people to see if my incubating ideas would like to get together with their incubating ideas?
I had one of those conversations this morning and I can see the flicker of possible, workable ideas that might, just might become the kind of workplace workshops that I have had in mind for oh so long a time. I'll just let that linger for a little while and see if the slow hunch really can become reality.
In the meantime I'm going to watch this little video by Steven Johnson again. It's four minutes on his ideas about ideas and where they come from, done in great illustration. Hopefully it will get you thinking about your slow hunches and what they might need to become great ideas!