Ingenuity flashes at the oddest times.
I love reading about folks, some rocket-science brilliant and some average janes in blue jeans, who solve some mystery or illuminate a triumphant innovation after watching a turtle waddle across a hot asphalt road or reading a 25 year old Calvin & Hobbes comic strip.
Inspiration can come from any particle of this planet, or complex combination of particles. It can be etherial when, as a spoken word, it bursts into the flame of a new idea. It can be a solid as a rock thrown through a plate glass moment — shattering all convention and definition previously known and accepted.
There are five secrets I’ve discovered that most ingenious people employ to catch those moments and turn them into enlightenment.
1. You Never Know When
Love – my wise father reminded me when I was 18 – will find you and usually at the oddest hour and most mysterious minute of the day. He was right about that — and it applies to ingenuity. The pop, the spark, the bolt from the blue most likely will occur when you are doing something totally distant and contrary to the flash of your mind. HINT: always have a piece of scratch paper and a pen on hand — and/or know how to flick that recording app on your phone ASAP. Strangely, these ideas evaporate into thin air as quickly as they manifest. Be prepared, Mind Scout.
2. Remember to R&R.
Research, Relax. Research, Relax. All work and no play makes Jack’s synapses overload, explode and fail. All things in balance, Grasshopper, including taxing your cerebellum. You may discover that it is during the relaxation portion of your day the brain forms and crystalizes a fresh or freaky thought. My formula: at least 33% of your day should be smelling roses, feeding hummingbirds, and dancing around in your skivvies.
3. Feed me, Mandrake.
Your precious bodily fluids need recharging. Yeah, sure, good nutrition is important (although an occasional Ding Dong is OK), but you need to feed the mind, too, Emeril. Read for fun at least once or twice a day. A thriller or graphic novel. An essay on Lincoln. Or a movie. Perhaps something fresh; or, reach back and watch an old favorite. When I feel void of thought, I pop in Dr. Strangelove and watch Peter Sellers play three different and hysterical characters in one of the darkest comedies ever made for the Silver Screen. It does a nice job of clearing my circuits, wiping clean my internal whiteboard and I come out the other side with some renewed clarity.
4. Fortress of Solitude
Perhaps you need to completely unplug from other Home Sapiens. Find an isolation chamber and get lost inside the hollow void of your own head. No social media. No satellite radio. No Netflix or YouTube. Without falling asleep, slow your conscious down from warp speed to all ahead slow. I like to drift on the surface of my pool, letting my speeding mind whirr down like a spring-wound clock. I can actually sweep it so that I am only focused on my five senses. I rotate my concentration on feeling the sensation of floating, the taste of a Milk Dud melting in my mouth, the scent of the nearby Honeysuckle vine, the sound of a distant calling Sandhill Crane, the sight of random clouds above. This is a very challenging exercise because we automatically flood our minds with collateral thinking and rarely disengage from these digital and devilworld destractions.
5. Round Up the Usual Suspects
And, totally contrary to Secret #4, you should frequently assemble your cerebral sidekicks, cohorts, and cronies to ram-a-jam wax poetic on life, liberty, and libations. That’s right. Party. Far too many of us find ourselves living in more isolation than social intercourse. Or even horizontal intercourse. One of my favorite “charging stations” for my mind is to drop by a local tavern or coffeehouse and strike up a casual conversation with two or three regulars. (Avoid, if possible, talking just to one stranger. This can be misinterpreted and, unlike a puppy following you home, you may meet Hannibal Lector.) Free up your conversation and engage a wide array of topics and community discourse to shake up the mental cobwebs, give you new perspectives on living, offer up some new shades and hues of color that stimulates and influences your inner thought laboratory. Can you say ‘catalyst?’
blockquote>Douglas Arnold, The Ingenuity Guru, is a writer, workshop leader, and speaker on ingenuity, imagination, and creativity. His upcoming book “Ingenuity!” focuses on sparking greater innovation in the individual, workplace teams and the community. Follow him here and on Twitter @DouglasArnold