You know when you look at a textured wall and suddenly a face pops out of it? The face wasn't put there on purpose, of course. We concoct it with our brains, which are programmed to seek out the human face to our evolutionary benefit. And, because of this "programming," our minds "create" faces even when they aren't there.
So, what if we programmed our brains to seek out other ideas in the same way? What if we could focus on the problem we are trying to solve and then "allow" ourselves to find ideas anywhere, even in the most seemingly irrelevant places?
Like fish nets.
Janet Echelman's Fish Nets
Give this Ted Talk a watch. You don't have to watch the whole thing (unless you want to, it's great), but watch until Ms. Echelman reveals the inspiration behind her wonderful art (and watch until you can appreciate her wonderful art a bit):
Echelman had a creative problem programmed in her mind. What kind of sculpture could she create that is light-weight yet still an appropriate representation of her artistic vision?
Her inspiration? Fish nets.
Echelman effectively programmed her brain to be looking for creative solutions just like our primal brains are programmed to look for faces. The result in both cases is unexpected, wonderful creativity.
What does all this mean for us?
One thing it means is that when it comes to ideas everything is relevant. I mean, the definition of "divergent thinking" is the ability to combine seemingly irrelevant thoughts to form new ones, right? So to presuppose what is relevant and what isn't relevant is to limit the possibilities of your personal creative process.
The other thing it means is that we need to truly immerse ourselves in the problem we're trying to solve. If it's a creative brief, read it, read it again, do a Google search on the problem, audience, whatever. Generate passion inside yourself that tells your brain "this is important."
And to the strategists I'd say this: write inspiring briefs that your creative teams can't help but be passionate about. That's something I aspire to with every ideation project at Ideasicle, but can always do better.
To me, generating that inner passion to solve the problem is how creative people program their brains to be on the lookout for creative solutions. So program away.
Then, be on the lookout for your own fish nets.