But it must be said that there is arguably something about the bath water that triggers new insights, often on long nagging thoughts. I’ve heard others say they get fresh insights in the bathroom too and I have, definitely, had some “aha!” moments under the shower with ideas springing up as drops of water run down my head.
The Bathroom Effect?
I’m still trying to figure out why this or what may be termed the bathroom effect happens. Is it the cooling effect of running water? Or perhaps in this age of all-pervasive gizmos and non-stop social interactions, the bathroom offers a private sanctuary for a brief moment of solitude and reflection (at least for those who can resist the withdrawal symptoms of being separated from their smartphones)? We can be certain of one thing though. Inspiration and fresh insights come in different ways to each person but knowing and understanding your private triggers is a critical part of the ideas generating engine.
I have for instance, snatched some interesting ideas from midnight dreams. In such moments, your sub-conscious mind, free from the rational restrictions of being wide awake, floats all sorts of possibilities. Some ideas are so vivid that I’ve learned to keep a pen and paper by my bedside. It is important to immediately write down such ideas when you wake up in the middle of the night because they can be annoyingly fleeting.
Traffic Powered Ideas
If solitude and dreams can inspire fresh ideas, other uncomfortable circumstances – like being stuck in a serious traffic jam of the Lagos kind – can equally force ideas out of your mind too. For instance, I recently had a gridlock induced light bulb moment. What if the leading car manufacturers could take a short break from the drawing boards of their very high-end concept vehicles and make a few adjustments to existing models to ease the pressures of driving?
- To cope with drivers who make abrupt turns without notice, every car should have trafficators that turn on automatically as soon as the driver turns the steering wheel beyond a fifteen degrees turn. I imagine this could be done almost immediately with well-programmed microchips.
- A built-in dashboard traffic viewer (a version of which is currently available on Google Maps Traffic) that gives you an overview of traffic jams as you drive. It is frustrating when you take a corner supposedly towards a seemingly free road and suddenly find yourself locked in a jam.
I reckon new ideas can be one a dime and it’s more exciting and challenging to bring these ideas to life. But I’ve come to realize that conceiving ideas even when we have no means of bringing them to life throws up the possibility of future action. Many years ago, in the early eighties, sitting in my father’s extremely analog Peugeot 504 in the middle of some sporadic rainfall, I thought about the possibility of a car windscreen that could detect raindrops and automatically activate the wipers.
More than two decades later, I did finally drive a smart car that could do this. Coincidence? Maybe. But it is likely that others were thinking about this same idea too. And that’s the fascinating thing about ideas. Ultimately, it is our shared sense of imagination, a truly distinct human quality.
It’s all in the Mind
As a keen sci-fi buff, I’ve come to appreciate the long-range vision of great writers in the mould of the famous Arthur C Clarke. Loads of ideas, once regarded as wide-eyed impossibilities have now gone mainstream – like the personal computer, the smart phone or even smart wristwatch we wear today. Indeed, these sci-fi writers of old didn’t exactly make things. They did more than that. They imagined things and created the mental picture of things that never existed before.