3 Unlikely Places where Great Ideas are Born

In a popular TED talk featuring Elizabeth Gilbert, Gilbert talks about the elusiveness of great ideas, how our genius sometimes shows up at inconvenient times and how we need to find ways to capture great ideas when it’s appropriate.

She illustrates this idea by sharing an anecdote from Tom Waits, “He was driving down the freeway in Los Angeles, and this is when it all changed for him. And he’s speeding along, and all of a sudden he hears this little fragment of melody, that comes into his head as inspiration often comes, elusive and tantalizing, and he wants it, it’s gorgeous, and he longs for it, but he has no way to get it. He doesn’t have a piece of paper, or a pencil, or a tape recorder. So he starts to feel all of that old anxiety start to rise in him like, ‘I’m going to lose this thing, and I’ll be haunted by this song forever. I’m not good enough, and I can’t do it.’ And instead of panicking, he just stopped. He just stopped that whole mental process and he did something completely novel. He just looked up at the sky, and he said, “Excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving?”

The fact of the matter is that inspiration doesn’t show up on a schedule.  In a study of ideas “only 3 percent of the people come up with their best ideas at work” (which is, of course, when many of us need them most). We looked into some of the most unlikely places where great thoughts emerge and you might be surprised what we found:

In the Shower. This blog suggests that some of our best ideas arrive when we’re in the shower. The reason why we’re so tuned in while we wash our cares away, is because dopamine is released in a warm shower and relaxes us. Disctraction from a task also gives our subconscious a chance to work on a problem creatively.

While Exercising. This blog stated that many of the common responses to the question of “where do you come up with best ideas?” included walking and running. Which makes sense. You’re focusing on other goals and upping your endorphins, which is when our subconscious really gets to take a whack at the things that are most interesting to us.

In Conversation. You know that moment when you’re mid-sentence over a glass of wine and suddenly it comes to you: the way to own that company presentation? Well, you’re not alone in that feeling. When one researcher looked at the data, he realized that none of the important breakthroughs that scientists were having were happening in the lab, but instead in the weekly lab meeting.  Bouncing ideas off of other people often leads to creative solutions.

For all of these reasons and more, IdeaScale has introduced the IdeaScale mobile app which allows users to share ideas, vote on ideas, and comment on ideas from anywhere (even when they’re offline).  This means that fewer ideas for lack of an idea collection method.

IdeaScale mobile functionality is one of many additions that are part of the 2015 product roadmap.  For a live demonstration of new functionality in action, please sign up for this IdeaScale webinar demo: https://www2.ideascale.com/stages-demo.

Where do your best ideas come from? How do you capture them?

image credit: Massimo Barbieri

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Jessica DayJessica Day is a marketing and technology writer and editor for IdeaScale. She received her Masters in Writing from the University of Washington. Day also blogs about crowd-based innovation and idea management solutions at blog.ideascale.com.

Jessica Day




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