Why do some of our best ideas come in the shower? Why can we solve the problems of the world over wine?
I have a theory that ideas come out of the blue when we are relaxed and in a mind set where anything is possible. We don’t ask why? – we just ask why not? We don’t say ‘no’, instead we ask ‘how’. We don’t get bogged down in the detail, just the idea.
It is argued that we generate ideas when we re-establish our relationship with our curious and instinctive behaviour through adopting a ‘beginner’s mind’. Just like a child. This beginners mind is explained by Harvard Business Review as “to put yourself in situations where you don’t know the answer and don’t have the skills to find it.”
“What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant curiosity of a child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.” Freud.
For 30 years, the Hollywood producer Brian Grazer held what he called “curiosity conversations.” Twice a month (on average), he would meet with scientists, politicians, writers, athletes and all sorts of other people to pick their brains, sometimes to inform a particular project but usually just to fill up the reserves of information, stories and relationships that any great producer needs.
Grazer is dyslexic. This led to difficulties at school which perturbed everyone in his family, except his grandmother Sonia, “a classic 4-foot-10 Jewish grandmother. She was always telling me I was something special. . . . She just kept telling me, ‘You’re curious. Your curiosity is good. Think big!’ ” And so he did. Mr. Grazer’s films and television shows, include “Splash” and “Apollo 13” to “A Beautiful Mind” and “Arrested Development,” which have earned him billions of dollars as well as Oscars and Emmys.
The late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, was a curious about everyone she met. She wanted to know a persons life story and she turned traditional wisdom on skin care from the women she met in her travels into unique product concepts.
It can be hard to remain curious when you work on your own or in a small organisation however our curious mind can reconnected when we do things such as learn a new language or musical instrument, or take up a new social interest or hobby.
Your curious mind can also be sparked by networking with people outside of your usual social or business circles. Problem solving can often happen in this context as a diversified group has a diversified mind-set – which is great when we need to tackle issues or come up with ideas!
When Procter & Gamble once claimed that it could “systematise the serendipity that so often sparks new-business creation.” To that Grazer wrote dismissively, “In Hollywood… we call that ‘lunch.’ ”
Have lunch with someone this week who sparks your curious mind - who would it be?