At Think Space, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to create the best environment for meetings and retreats so that our clients are inspired to think differently, gain new perspectives, and create new ideas. After people have a great meeting at Think Space, I often get asked, “How do I change my personal environment to inspire creative thinking when I am not in brainstorming meetings?”
I think it is a fascinating question because there is no single answer. Creativity and inspiration are one of those uniquely human experiences that can be found in different places for different people. You may find your best thoughts come in the shower, while your coworker is obsessed with retreating to Starbucks for the din of a barista’s machines mixed with college folk music.
I have several different favorite places when it comes to my own creative thinking. Each one tends to be tied to a different type of creativity. In general, they all allow me to see things from new perspectives. For example, I do my best creative writing while sitting on an airplane staring out the window. This one is a surprise to me because I really don’t like traveling for work. When it comes to connecting ideas in different ways, I often find myself outside, either walking in the woods or standing on my paddle board in the middle of a lake.
Recently, I spent some time on a beautiful beach in the Caribbean (one of my favorite places in the world). I began thinking about what my “creative spaces” have in common. It occurred to me that they all have a lot in common with the beach. Thus, I composed a list of those “beach” elements that one may want to include in their own search for personal creative thinking spaces.
- Wide open spaces without confines where the horizon seems to go forever. (Get away from the cubicle.)
- Like the waves crashing the shore, the environment is never static.
- Like the sand under your feet, the environment is malleable and open to your influence.
- Colors: Blues, oranges, and yellows surround you just like the sun, the water, and the sand.
- Most importantly, it feels safe and warm.
These are just a few of the elements that I find inspiring. However, others may have more. Neuroscientist John Kounios and Mark Beeman studied how creativity and insightful thinking occur in the brain and summarized their research in their book, The Eureka Factor. They contend that one’s environment can have a significant impact on creativity. For example, in a recent interview in the Washington Post (see link below), Kounios explains 8 things people can do to improve insight and creativity. I was surprised by how many of his factors mirror my own experiences (i.e. open spaces, the colors of nature, etc).
Thus, the next time you are searching for that “Aha!” moment, you may want to think about a change in your environment. Of course, you could also grab your coworkers and just head to Think Space, where we bring the beach to you 🙂