Great Ideas Come From a Dripping Faucet

Bart Cleveland
Bart Cleveland



dripping-faucetFluidity of thought is not only stimulating — for the creative mind, it’s a necessity. It’s where great ideas happen because we are free to consider anything a possibility. And that myriad of new perspectives brings us to a single, better solution.

What keeps us from this freedom of thought is akin to a frozen pipe. Not only does it serve no purpose, but soon it will burst and be worthless. So like a pipe in freezing weather, we must let the mind’s faucet drip. This got me thinking: If cold weather freezes pipes, what freezes idea making?

Shiny objects: Being attached to the world via our “devices” is a sure way to keep us from thinking. Emails, texts, calls, games and general trolling are the easier path when a tough problem looms. Funny enough, a walk in the park does just the opposite. While your body is busy, your mind is free to explore. When you’re electronically shackled, so is your imagination. Devices are great tools, but they increase the consumption of garbage that clutters the parts of our brain we need for better pursuits. Unplug for a while if your want to connect with your best thinking.

Spinning plates: There are a lot of examples of burnout in our business. It’s a result of the same type of problem as the personal device: too many things to pay attention to that have nothing to do with solving the problem. Agencies can require employees to work so many hours there is little time for personal hygiene, much less experiencing the world. We’re supposed to be able to communicate effectively. A person simply can’t do so well if there is an indefinite mountain of work to be done. Certainly, peaks are a part of our business. But when 24/7 becomes the culture of your agency, don’t be surprised if your idea pipe freezes.

Mold: We all create differently to develop ideas. I like to write. Others like to doodle pictures. Some like to sample from books and magazines, etc. It doesn’t matter how you come up with a great idea. There isn’t much room to explore in a 7-by-7-foot cubicle. However, with freedom comes responsibility. You must know the difference between being productive and goofing off. If you consistently produce great thinking, most agencies will let you do so in whatever fashion works best for you.

Fire hoses: If you leave the faucet wide open, a lot is wasted unnecessarily. Turn the faucet off completely, and you get shut off from what you need when you need it. The key to being productive is balance. Know when you need to walk away and give the problem time to simmer in the recesses of your brain. Have confidence that you are working on it while you’re taking that walk or shooting a few hoops. It’s good to bring it back to the frontal lobe while you’re engaged with something totally unrelated. Find fresh insight from the random. For example, seeing something as mundane as an ant carrying a leaf across a sidewalk could spur a thought like, “that would be a really interesting ad.” Sponge up everything that is going on around you and hold it up to the problem. Don’t be surprised if your ideas suddenly have a fresh feel.

Keep your creativity flowing by never shutting it down completely. Be one of those people whose work is envied because of its unusual perspective. That’s why you wanted be in this business in the first place, right?

Topics: Creativity

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