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10 Tips for Having Great Ideas - #6 Get Physical

Someone recently asked us how the design team at The Imagination Factory approaches repeatable idea generation in the projects we work on. It made us stop and think and we ended up with a list of 10 top tips for having great ideas which we thought might be useful to share.
Whilst generating new ideas is a predominantly mental activity, don't under-estimate the impact of your physical posture and external sensory stimulation on a successful outcome. As we saw in the 3rd post in this series there is still much that we don't understand about the processes happening in our brains when we are being creative. But most of us will recognise that we are prone to distractions, feelings of wasting time and frustration when we are under pressure to solve a challenge with a creative approach. One way to mitigate this is to deliberately undermine the human tendency to return to a physically static status quo during a meeting or group session.

Many businesses have identified that the physical work environment can have an enormous impact on employees especially when they rely on innovation to stay ahead of the competition. Books such as "I Wish I Worked There" have carried out in-depth studies into the impact of well-designed spaces on creative activities such as Reflection, Collaboration, Stimulation and Play. But what can you do if you don't have the opportunity or resources to significantly re-design your workspace?

We have found that changing venues for a period of intense idea generation can be helpful. Getting your team off-site for a day can be a cost-effective way to provide a new set of physical stimuli. But even if you stay in your usual workspace you can employ tactics to make sure you get up and move around. Use the walls instead of a horizontal surface to get you out of your chair. Put away laptops and phones to make sure people are not limited by the borders of a screen and swap pencils and ballpoint pens for large markers that encourage big expansive movements. Not only does this increased physicality counteract lethargy but it also levels the playing field in terms of the ability to sketch out ideas which promotes visual thinking amongst your team.

We are also big fans of working ideas out in 3D with paper, card, old boxes or anything else we can find. We call it rough and ready prototyping. Sometimes there is a resistance to doing this way of working because we think it is somehow unprofessional or it feels like something we used to do at school. But using easily available materials keeps things simple and inexpensive and if the idea is not working you can just tear it up and try again. It might take a bit of encouragement to persuade your team to give rough and ready prototyping a go but we've found that it's one of the most effective ways to stimulate creativity and visualise ideas in a way that keeps energy levels high.


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