Idea Learning Group

The Power of Shower Thinking

Have you ever spent an hour staring at a blank piece of paper, willing some new ideas to spill onto the page, only to feel disappointed and exhausted when nothing materializes?

You might be going about brainstorming the wrong way. To generate new ideas, give your brain a break. Try starting with a clear mind, and avoid being so direct in your thinking.

When Albert Einstein said, “Why is it I get my best ideas while shaving?” I think he was on to something with this observation.

It could be the steam, the isolation from everyday distractions, or the quality time spent with the subconscious mind. Or maybe it’s the white noise it generates, the ritualistic simplicity of it, or just a fresh start to the day.

Whatever the reasons, I get many of my best ideas in the shower.

According to the article “How to Produce Big Ideas On Demand” in Business Week Online, “There is a scientific theory that water hitting your head helps trigger the synapses and that’s why people get great ideas in the shower. But we think it’s simpler than that: The ideas occur because you are not making an effort to think. You aren’t worried about anything. You are not stressed. Hence some of your best thinking occurs.”

Perhaps we find a special sort of relaxation in those transitory moments of our days, which allow us to dig deeper into the incubation stations in our minds, seemingly without effort.

“Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.” Thomas Edison had a different approach to tapping into his subconscious meanderings to mine new ideas. Although he only slept for four to five hours each night, he regularly took catnaps. He would think of something he wanted to resolve before sitting in a chair, drifting off with a ball bearing in each hand. If he fell into too deep of a sleep, the ball bearings would come crashing to the ground—a sign that he’d gone too far into slumber. He would then quickly record the ideas that were brewing when he was jolted awake.

You would think that Edison would have invented and patented a device for recording creative ideas in this manner. But it wasn’t until 75 years after his death that such products were available, at least when it comes to recording creative ideas in the shower.

Although I haven’t personally tried any of these products, I’m amused and impressed with the selection of idea-recording devices for use in the shower! There’s Divemaster Slate, a waterproof whiteboard. AquaNotes makes a waterproof notepad (“No more great ideas down the drain!”). Rite in the Rain makes a handheld waterproof flip pad. Aquapac makes waterproof cases for digital recording electronics.

But if I were to hang up the waterproof notepad or eagerly clutch my waterproof voice recorder as I shampoo my hair, would that quiet my creative subconscious? Would the ideas become less accessible if I were to enter the shower with such lofty expectations?

When do you find yourself generating your best ideas, and how do you record them?

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