Nurturing Impromptu Ideation

everlongMy last post briefly considered the idea procrastination (yes procrastination!) could be a viable technique to enhance the ideation process and the caliber—not necessarily quantity—of creative ideas generated against any given set of problems

(Hey, we’ve all got problems, let’s pwn them!).

Put another way, creative procrastination loosely involves resisting the tendency to find quick and conventional solutions to problems. Rather, employing a deeper and more holistic exploration of the known (e.g. project constraints, deliverables) and unknowns (e.g. the subjective realm, vague ideas or objectives, constraints open to interpretation).

The conscious act of procrastination gives us potentially more time to consider adjacencies and alternatives to the seemingly easy, obvious or expected solution. However, delaying outcomes as a strategy for improving ideas must invariably consider 3 caveats always lurking about: time, resources and motivation.

The availability (or lack) of these 3 factors, more than anything else in my opinion, determines how and what we ultimately create for our clients.

But enough talk of procrastination.

I want to shift gears and explore the inverse side of this ideation equation: the process of impromptu thinking.

In stark contrast to delaying outcomes, making quick or spontaneous decisions has the capacity to liberate us from the sometimes insidious nature of project constraints which may—in the worst-case scenario—undermine our creative process.

A recent post appearing on my Tumblelog got me thinking about the power of impromptu ideation.

Personally, I just love creating improvised pieces of digital art, sometimes based on nothing more than random elements displayed on my computer screen at any given time. I sometimes build crude juxtapositions and collages of seemingly unrelated subject matter. I find the key is to do it quickly and without much planning or critical thought. In my mind it’s like I’m taking a 5-minute creative coffee break.

If you’ve never tried this exercise and feel a little skeptical just think quick and dirty as opposed to slow, detailed and by-the-numbers. If you’re a designer, start drawing something completely off the top of your head without really thinking about what you’re doing. If you’re a writer, start typing out your thoughts as they enter your mind and keep going until you have several hundred words or more. If you’re a musician, just start jamming and improvising with other musicians—and get rid of that damn sheet music.

If you like doing things slow and methodically, try fast and imprecise—force yourself to do the opposite of what you normally do. If you want to be more creative or innovative in your approach at work, do these exercises on a regular basis; identify the catalyst(s), shrug off any paralysis and just begin anywhere.

With all the constraint based, left-brain oriented work we do on a daily basis, sometimes it’s worthwhile to explore seemingly arbitrary thought processes as a way to reboot our usual problem solving methodology and nurture creativity. Break the rules or become slave to them.

Thanks to Jon Crowley for inspiring this post.

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