When I was asked to write a blog about how I nurture ideas, I didn’t really know where to start. Sure, I could give you a little insight into my manic scribbles while reinforcing that being sat in the corner doodling is actually work! Instead, I wanted to deliver something more meaningful, pondering on why in this world of technological marvels and shortcuts, do I still prefer to use a very low-tech sketchbook?
What I want to explore are, ‘Where do Good Ideas Come From’ and ‘How Can I Make Some for Myself’? Writer Steven Johnson has spent a great deal of time exploring this subject and concludes “ideas are a network” and most ideas can be described as “slow hunches” taking years of nurturing before their fruition – leading up to that quintessential Eureka moment.
However, the problem that I have with all this is the aspect of time; a wonderful commodity that many of us rarely have in abundance. Clients don’t tend to give you several years to have a breakthrough with ideas for their projects; and I’m pretty sure for those reading this – neither does yours. ‘Where do good ideas come from?’ I simply believe there isn’t a right or wrong answer, rather the correct method for breeding the best ideas; personal to you.
Isaacs Newton’s ideas famously fell from a tree; who knew the methodology to proving the existence of gravity was lounging in an orchard? Or that Archimedes would prove his theory of volume displacement just by taking a bath (coincidentally famed as prolific doodler). My point being is they all had their own methods, deliberate or otherwise.
So what method should I use to unearth the best ideas and solutions to my project and what tools do I use? For me it comes down to fulfilling two basic criteria;
(1) The discussion and sharing of ideas and thoughts and
(2) Developing your findings, evolving them with the progression of deep thought.
For the average Joe (or Sam), like myself, working in an office much of the time you have to improvise with the environment. Unless you work on your own, you will have the ability for open discussion in your office, to make your “slow hunches” collide with others, creating some great ideas and solutions. That’s the first part taken care of; the easy bit. The second part I feel is the much-needed slice of personal reflection, deep thought and making sense of it all. Making your thoughts relevant. An aspect, which I think many of us wash over and simply ‘leave it for someone else to do.’ So where does my sketchbook come into all this? Because it’s a sketchbook where I have the space to openly develop and envisage ideas.
It’s important to remember that you’re not trying to spend ages creating a masterpiece; rather briskly separating the wheat from the chaff. I spent years learning this mistake – where a few scribbles on paper, which took me 5 minutes, proved to be the same as a one-hour pro render. Think aloud on paper, it’s about turning the ideas in your head to be visceral and pictorial - and in the same rapidly crude fashion you put them down on paper you’ll be able to decipher their quality.
Remember there’s no such thing as a bad idea – this exercise is about making your own big bunch of ideas and then having the pick of them. Soon you’ll be throwing down all sorts of ideas with tempo. Try it – you might find it easier than you think.
Alternatively, if this seems all a little bit bewildering and you might want to see what my sketchbook can do you for you – give us a call.
Useful links: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation [book] Where do Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson Moleskin Journals – my favored sketchpad