According to David Limbert, creative head of Magnetic Storm, moments of inspiration happen at the most unlikely of times and when you least expect it. A visit to a gallery, watching a bee collect pollen from a flower, your four-year old’s artistic impression of you: moments when you absorb the world.
And they all more than likely happen when you’re not at your desk, staring into your screen hoping inspiration will strike. There’s a wonderful world out there beyond our screens, and it is our role as creatives to get out there and explore it. The trouble is, almost without exception, the first thing that anyone, in any job, does as soon as they start a project is going to their desks to click, surf and bookmark. Our digital world has its benefits, it helps us to learn, explore and connect, but true inspiration comes from beyond the desktop.
At the recent Exporters Awards at the Boardwalk International Convention Centre in Port Elizabeth, we were tasked with designing the set and bringing their theme to life. I drive past the city’s port daily, and it was the shapes the cranes made, the clanging of containers and the industrial nature of the economic hub of the city that inspired the set design. We did away with the corporate white set, the typical two screens and a stage; and embraced scaffolding and creativily enhanced the design though decorative panels and static and roving lighting to create a mood of celebration and exclusivity.
Leadership expert Robin Sharma is an advocate of nature walks to break free of the chains of ‘normal thinking’ and going deep into the loftiest realms of creativity, introspection and uncommon insight. And don’t take his word for it – science backs up the benefits of solitude and time away from the desk: when you get out ‘into the wild’ your brain waves slow down from beta to alpha and when you do this in solitude, the part of your brain responsible for self-criticism, mental chatter and constant worry shuts down.
This silencing of the prefrontal cortex happens temporarily and is known as transient hypofrontality. With the prefrontal cortex temporarily quiet, you enter the Flow State. When you’re in Flow, your neurochemistry is altered. Dopamine (the neurochemical of inspiration) gets released, along with anandamide (the neurochemical of bliss), and serotonin (the neurochemical of pleasure). When you’re in this place, you get your best ideas. Your creativity makes explosive gains. You begin to see around corners and over hurdles and are able to solve problems you might not ordinarily be able to solve.
My point is, it’s a wonderful world that we live and work in and sometimes it’s good to take the blinkers off and take a look around. And for us creatives, do we get enough time to take part in wide-open thinking at the start of projects? To go out ‘into the field’, to get involved in immersive research that happens in any discovery phase of a project.
The answer is yes, we should. But I think it’s also our job as teams to simply take the time to step back. Chat more. Visit that gallery or just go for that walk. The inspiration is out there. Somewhere. You just need to tap into your own mind.