Where the best ideas come from
Several weeks ago, the chairman of Illinois Policy Institute’s board, John Tillman, called me with a new idea. It was clear. It was simple. It was brilliant.
I asked how he came up with it. “I thought of it in the shower,” he said. “That’s where my best ideas come from.”
We both laughed, but there was wisdom in his quip. A shower creates clarity, often leading to new ideas.
It does so for many besides John Tillman.
Nearly three of every four Americans said their best ideas form while showering. The reason? Creativity surges when we are relaxed and tired. Our brain is free to process information.
For most people, the shower is the only time they are not consuming information. Outside of the shower, the TV is on, we are scrolling on our phone, we are listening to music or having a conversation with family or friends.
The shower has become our default thoughtful spot. It is where we can process the barrage of information we take in every day.
So what interested me is, “Can we replicate the same creativity that happens in the shower in other areas of our life?”
Yes. We do it every day when we walk.
I found some the greatest thinkers were obsessive walkers: William Wordsworth, Jonathan Swift, Beethoven, Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Darwin.
It’s reported that Wordsworth walked over 180,000 miles in his life.
Darwin’s biographer noted his walking habit:
“As a businesslike man, he would pile up a mound of flints at the turn of the path and knock one away every time he passed to ensure he made a predetermined number of circuits without having to interrupt his train of thought. Five turns around the path amounted to half a mile or so. [This is] where he pondered. In this soothing routine, a sense of place became preeminent in Darwin’s science. It shaped his identity as a thinker.”
Darwin’s theory of natural selection likely came from a walk, not from an office.
And modern science confirms the benefits. A recent study from the University of Stanford showed creativity increased 60% after a walk.
So if we want to have more “ah-ha!” moments, more creativity, more clarity, we would be wise to take some time out of the office. Go for a walk.
And afterwards, take a shower.