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Airports, Coffee & Pavlov’s Dogs

Have you ever wondered why certain environments, music and even scents inspire you and stimulate creative thought and ideas? To expand on this question even further. Why do we come up with the greatest ideas when we’re not coming up with ideas? When we play, ideas happen.
We’re in a constant cycle of growth and learning. As we move through life, we unconsciously develop ways to make our life more efficient by creating habits and routines. We find shorter ways to get from point A to point B. We develop new systems to get things done. And, we often learn efficiency and fall into habits without thinking. Our learning and growing is never without influence; whether the influence is a person, a story, an idea or an internal drive.
One of the forms of learning is Associative Learning. We often refer to this as Classical Conditioning (yes, the story of Pavlov’s dogs!) In a nutshell, if the brain is presented and conditioned with stimuli that evokes a specific response, then anytime a similar stimuli is presented, the same response is triggered. Over time, our minds develop an association between the stimulus and the response.

In context – One day, you may find yourself sitting in a café enjoying your favorite drink and you get a breakthrough idea. The next time you’re in search of an idea, you will find yourself going back to a café because that is where the light-bulb went off the last time. As a result, an association is developed in the brain; cafe + coffee = ideas! This example is by far the simplest. An association can be complex, involving smells, sounds, colors, times of day… and the list could go on.
Action & Challenge – Test for new stimuli. Pick a random environment that stimulates as many senses as possible; Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch and Smell. (Café’s and airports are great to start with). Note the details of your environment (sounds, smells, tastes, etc.) when ideas arise. Keep track of the stimuli. Once enough data is collected, look for patterns. This will begin to give you a clear picture of what you need to come up with ideas. When you’re able to measure, you’ll be able to manage. By trying something new, and you may discover new stimuli that sparks ideas.

More on this topic…

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