Tuesday, June 11, 2019

How to Boost Your Creative Powers While You Travel

This evening, I'm writing this blog post as I look out on the streets of Dublin, Ireland.  For those who have visited this nation's capital, you  know that it's quite a vibrant city.  Fortunately, I've managed to be here during a wonderful period of sunny, albeit quite cool, weather.   Watching people stroll by on the cobblestone streets and sidewalks reminds me of the of power of travel as a stimulant for our creativity. IDEO's David and Tom Kelley once wrote about the ways in which observations while we travel can stir the brain.  They argue that we notice things that we normally take for granted amidst our daily routines at home:  

Things stand out because they're different, so we notice every detail, from street signs to mailboxes to how you pay at a restaurant. We learn a lot when we travel not because we are any smarter on the road, but because we pay such close attention. On a trip, we become our own version of Sherlock Holmes, intensely observing the environment around us. We are continuously trying to figure out a world that is foreign and new. Too often, we go through day-to-day life on cruise control, oblivious to huge swaths of our surroundings. To notice friction points - and therefore opportunities to do things better - it helps to see the world with fresh eyes.

In Unlocking Creativity, I explain why travel can be such a stimulating experience:

Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  Travel disrupts our normal routines, and novelty stimulates the brain.   Living in another nation can open people’s eyes to new perspectives and cause people to question the typical ways that things are done in their home country.  Immersing yourself in another culture provides insight as to how people in other countries work, live, and play – and perhaps most importantly, how they approach certain types of problems.  

What then are some practical steps we can take this summer amidst our travels to ignite our creativity?
  1. Look for what is simpler and easier to do in this new place than at home, and try to identify what is more difficult or challenging to accomplish. What makes people smile and what makes them frown the most?
  2. Notice how people's daily routines differ from those of your friends, neighbors, and co-workers at home.  
  3. Watch out for products or services that do not exist at home.  Ask whether you are noticing a new trend emerge, or whether this particular innovation is simply well-suited to this location, but not relevant at home. 
  4. Ask yourself why people in this new place seem to enjoy some of the same things you enjoy at home, but in other instances, seem to have quite different wants and needs. 
  5. Ask the locals what they love about living here, and what they would like to see change. 
  6. Stroll into a supermarket or apparel store, and ask yourself why the layout differs from at home.  Why are retailers presenting products in a different manner?

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