Why do our best ideas often come to us in the shower?
Creativity is a funny thing. Creative people are at the heart of technological innovation, whether it’s science, engineering, or finding the right music to energize your workout. Ancient cultures saw inspiration as a gift from the gods, a literal bolt from the blue. That’s why Homer and Hesiod start their great works with a prayer to the Muse. But creativity is also a disciplined process, where people have to exercise their craft and the focus on the nuts and bolts of writing, drawing, or coding. Which is it?
Increasingly, scientists who study the creative process believe that it’s both. Often focusing hard on a problem yields nothing but frustration. It’s like banging your head against a wall. What you need to do is go for a walk in the woods—although that may only give new insight into tree roots and birds’ songs. It’s in the transition times, between work and play, where people frequently get their “aha” moments. It helps to be in a good mood, to be engaged in a routine task like bathing or doing the dishes, and to have your mind primed with fresh content. But then, especially if you’re just a little tired, the pieces can come together.
Setting up the proper conditions for original ideas is like arranging lightning rods for your brain. But in order to get that jolt of mental energy, the weather still has to cooperate.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer