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Why thinking about horse trousers is good for you

Think Like A Designer

February 26, 2018

Why thinking about horse trousers is good for you

Ideas and their crazed, unrealistic cousins – the plans, are the important outcome of creative thinking. They are the product of fertile imagination and are vital to generating and exploring beyond the obvious. Without them we would still be getting about draped in dead animals and squatting to eat with our hands.

There is an old Yiddish adage that goes like this: Man plans and god laughs. Which does not mean that ideas and the plans to execute them are a waste of time. Rather, it is an alert to the obstacles that will arise when you embark on the journey to bring a plan to fruition.

Caroline Williams talks about doubling her creative ideas after putting her brain into a creative state using brain stimulation to turn down the sensible frontal lobe activity. One of the creative ideas that came from her brain stimulation session was to use waders as 'trousers for horses'. I remember listening to this interview via a podcast while driving through the countryside with another designer and our conversation turned to how fabulously useful those slightly nutty ideas can be – and of course we shared a whole host of nutty ideas with each other.

Those creative/nutty ideas by themselves are a bit useless, but they are the source code for better ideas and that is enough to justify hanging on to them. The problem with ideas is that have a lot of energy and will buzz around inside your head until you pay them full attention. So, find a home for them. Jot them down somewhere so that you can go back to them when you need to.

I listened to Eddie Izzard talking to Ezra Klein on his (Ezra's) podcast. Eddie gave a wonderful off-the-cuff example of how his creative thinking works by verbalising how one idea links to another, then another until something substantial results. This creative process is the same for any form of creative activity and it is one of the reasons that the original idea you come up with isn't worth much as it is.

The process of exploring ideas is what pans the gold out of them. And you need to explore in a safe space. If anyone suggests they will facilitate a brainstorming session with you and a group of others, just back away until you are a safe distance to run! Exploring ideas requires creative thinkers who are enthusiastic about arriving at an outcome, who have no emotional attachment to the ideas or ego invested in the outcome – that isn't always easy to find. And it never occurs in a brainstorming session with colleagues.

Find your creative group or hire some creatives to explore with you. I'll bet you end up somewhere interesting.