Been thinking a lot about the mechanics of inspiration. IDEO's Chief Creative Officer Paul Bennett always says that it's our job as designers to be inspired. And at IDEO we try to not only inspire ourselves, but get our clients and partners inspired, too. We'll go to great lengths to expose them to new ways of thinking, new things to experience and reframe their thinking around the problem at hand.
But how does it actually work?
It boils down to neuroplasticity. This article from Lifehacker does a bang-up job of explaining it:
To oversimplify it, neuroplasticity simply means that your brain can continue to form new connections and neural pathways even into adulthood (which, prior to around the 1970s was not thought possible). When you make a new connection between two ideas, it's not just a metaphor. Your brain is literally restructuring itself to accommodate new processes. Because our memory is associative (meaning we sort and connect pieces of information based on their relationship with each other), the more "plastic" your brain is, the more you're able to form creative or inspirational thoughts.
So basically, the more flexible your brain is, the more you can create new relationships to the stuff already floating around in there accumulated from your experiences. And for me, getting inspired means filling up that mental tank with as much interesting, stimulating things everyday. So when something new enters my field of experience, there's plenty in there to hook into which could lead to something awesome and new.
From a science standpoint, it is fascinating and makes a ton of sense. From an artists' or designers' standpoint, that "eureka" or "aha" moment is still tough to articulate. This feeling drives what we do. It's exhilarating. And while It may not be easy to explain, it is super fun to talk about.
Last night, I had the pleasure of having dinner at the awesome d47 Shokudo in Shibuya with Andrea and Sam from Paloma Powers, a budding creative talent and experience agency based out of NYC and LA who recently curated the AirBnB Arthouse at Hong Kong's Art Basel event this year, and my friend Herman Mao, a great architect visiting from China who redesigned our Shanghai studio last year. Over broiled mackerel and sake, I asked about how they understand inspiration. It was a lovely chat, one I wished I actually recorded (next time), but my favorite description was this:
"It's like falling in love."
Yeah, it kind of is. There's an instantaneous, but vague realization something amazing is right in front of you. You aren't quite sure what it is, exactly. But you are willing to act on it to find out.
And I think that's what I want to find out from you. How does getting inspired cause you to commit a creative act? Once your tank is filled, once your neural pathways bend themselves to link together in a new way, what do you do about it?