Via email, I asked four friends and colleagues, “What do you do to stimulate creative thinking?” I posted their responses, then interpreted each in a quick visual sketch.


“So…creativity… 🙂 The blank slate / empty canvas is sort of the hardest thing for me. What I do is start collecting little bits and pieces of random ideas that come into my head when I talk to other people (sort of like building a nest of twigs and other flotsam) and sometimes I write it down on a scrap of paper or email myself one sentence on a concept. I will pull these little idea eggs out of my head multiple times throughout days and weeks, think on them very briefly, and forget them again, knowing I cared enough about it to pull it out again sort of accretes more value to them over time as they get recalled many times, they are trying to compete for my attention in a way. Its also great if youre somewhere you dont want to be and you can just distract yourself and tune out the world by looking at them iny our mind, and refining them a little bit. I also put myself to sleep oftentimes thinking about one of them, maybe a specific problem or challenge that is presented by the idea and imagining solutions to it, even if the solutions are just totally impossible or random– I enjoy the process of having those practical thoughts devolving intro dream-space as I get tired and lose my grip on reality, its relaxing, and helps me sleep. I dont know why thats satisfying but for some reason I feel like it helps me engage with those problems or ideas abstractly, they become less intimidating when I attack them from nonsensical angles which I tend to do when Im half awake.

Then when I can clarify or attack an approach to a product or something during the day, it feels clearer, and more accessible, and if at some point I really start to have conviction and know Im onto something valid. Sometimes that happens fast as clear as a bell, and sometimes it takes time, but it is always some days removed from the first inkling of the idea.

I order to make the idea valid, once I believe it is worth working on, I try restating the idea or the project in lots of different ways– primarily via refining it and shaping it by actually telling other people about it. At this stage it needs a micro audience and I pick my moments to reveal it to individuals or small groups I have hand selected or serendipitously found myself wanting to tell them about an idea. So the whole process sort of works in reverse at that point– instead of collecting information and internalizing it, im externalizing it and hearing how other people react or if they can even understand what Im talking about. The more Im compelled to do that with people Im around the stronger I find myself relating to the idea. That helps me build confidence that the approach is valid, and helps me convince myself I should even start doing it. Ive conected the idea to myself by putting it put there for other people (who associate it to me, and I can watch if that association is positive or negative, or just, ‘huh?’.

This all exists with just the thinnest of documentation, its really verbal, and the reality of the whole of what needs to get done exists in the telling and I can work on that in multiple passes until I am ready to actually document it. I basically remember how I described the idea best to someone and try to refine that.

Now, actually documenting or, even further down the road, MAKING the thing Ive thought about is a different process than the ideation, but thats a quick and dirty summary to how I might ideate something.”



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