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  • Ideation Science Team

The Magic of Ideas in the shower and The Pros and Cons of Active and Passive Problem-Solving

There is no doubt that ideas come to me in the shower. I often have to rush out to write them down. There are a few theories about why people often have creative insights or new ideas while showering. One possibility is that the relaxation and solitude of the shower allows the mind to wander and process information in a more free-flowing way, leading to the generation of new ideas. Additionally, the repetitive and monotonous nature of showering may lead to a state of mindfulness, which has been shown to be conducive to creative thinking. Finally, the warm water and steam of the shower may have a physical effect on the brain that promotes relaxation and creativity.

There have been some studies that have investigated the relationship between showering and creative thinking. One study published in the journal "Psychological Science" found that people were more likely to have creative insights while they were in the shower compared to other activities. Another study published in the journal "Environmental Psychology" found that people who took showers reported higher levels of creativity and clarity of thought compared to those who took baths. However, it's worth noting that these studies were relatively small and more research would be needed to confirm the link between showering and creativity.

I don't know who it was, but there is a famous anecdote about a successful politician who used to take envelopes marked "urgent" and put them in the bottom drawer of his desk. He found that when he opened them two weeks later, they were inevitably no longer urgent. Shower or not, things do tend to resolve themselves a lot of the time.

The "let things stew" versus active engagement paradox of ideation is something I have grappled with for a long time. I used to be in the "let things stew" camp, but then I discovered the magic of the design sprint, which changed my mind. I now believe that both approaches are valid for different things, and that a combination of the two approaches might be the ultimate solution - focused ideation followed by stewing of ideas. The downside of letting problems stew that I didn’t consider is that letting problems stew has the potential to clutter the mind.

So in conclusion here’s what I’m thinking: Smash the less important things, Stew on the big things that will add the most value to your life or to the world.

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