The idea generator

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Having great ideas and being creative is very much essential for a scientist. Did you ever reflect on how this process works best for you? And how it can be enhanced?

The list on ideas that was supposed to end up in this blog was created while my body was incubating in the bathtub. A glass of wine usually improves the flow in my brain when it comes to manuscript or other academic writing. Bringing together different threads and generating new ideas happens best when I ride on a train and do nothing else than starring out of the window. The scarcer the landscape and the less people around, the more active my brain. A colleague of mine said that for being creative, she requires it to be dark outside. Important is also not to force anything: being creative at the push of a button is not going to work.

While loneliness and relaxing are one piece of the puzzle, another one can be exchange. Reading helps a lot. Reading or reviewing other peoples’ papers, talking to colleagues about your work and attending (online) talks. This makes me unintentionally think about how to apply similar approaches to my own field. It also helps a lot to chat with people that have majored in the same subject but work in a completely different area. And it helps to explain stuff to people that have no clue about the subject matter at all, e.g. grandparents or siblings. They sometimes come up with astonishing ideas that no one would have ever thought about. Really out of the box!

The last factor is incubation. There are some threads in your head but you cannot bring them together… leave the things alone for a while! Go to sleep and withdraw. Let the subconsciousness do its job. It will let you know when it’s done. Such Eureka! moments are very rare, but if they occur, it’s awesome. Mine appeared in the middle of the night. They woke me up and wanted me to take notes : ) The more obtrusive these ideas are, the higher their value, I guess. Please take them seriously. They are the result of a long process and are like tiny seeds that need to be planted and taken care of.

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