Read essays, articles, or books on creativity, and you will more than once you will read that you can heighten your imagination and create new ideas by reading magazines that you wouldn’t typically read. The suggestion is to go to your local newsstand and pick magazines you wouldn’t ever read and read them for ideas, connections, and trends.
This is an often repeated example of using outside stimulus to jumpstart our creativity.
I have read this suggestion many times. I’ve suggested it myself. I’ve even done it a few times. But I’ve never seen anyone show someone an example of doing it.
Earlier this week, I found the April edition of Wired Magazine in my briefcase as I traveled. I had picked it up a couple of weeks before at an airport because I was drawn to the cover, which suggested that the issue's main focus was “The New World of Games.”
While I am not a current subscriber to Wired Magazine (I used to be), and you might not be either, I think you will find both the process and my results enlightening and fun.
Reading a magazine for creative insights is pretty straightforward. Get a magazine, a highlighter, and perhaps some paper or your Journal. Then begin reading. Don’t skim or read only the immediately or naturally exciting things to you. Read everything. Read the articles AND the ads. And while you are reading, be asking yourself things like…
What does this remind me of?
How does this relate to my situation, problem, or challenge?
What did they do that I can do?
How could I use this?
How can I learn from the experiences or suggestions in the article (or ad)?
These aren’t the only questions you can ask, but they are enough to get you started. You can go into this creative journey with a specific challenge or problem in mind, or you can do it to see what lucky ideas you generate – either way is fine!
In this case, my journey was a random one – I wasn’t thinking about a specific issue or challenge. I was reading to see what I might find.
How to Read the Rest of This Article
The rest of this article will provide some of my ideas and what spurred them. I encourage you to read on observing my process and see what ideas or insights you get from my senses. In other words, I encourage you to use the method I just described in the rest of this article!
You may also decide to go to the library and get the April 2006 Wired Magazine to see all of what I am describing.
… page 26 – a sidebar asks, “Is a half-hour show too long for today’s viewers?” Three people answer with different perspectives. My first reaction is that this is an exciting question, And my second was that the answers given come down to the quality of the story. People will watch if a good story is told (hey, we sat through 3 + hours for Titanic!) So while this is an interesting question, it is a bit backward. The relevant question is, how good is the story? This relates to my work in terms of training – how long do people want to learn in one sitting, etc. Do I think that times are changing? Sure I do. But people are still people. They will worry less about the time they are engaged. Whether through the story or significant interaction in a learning situation, the right question is how can we engage people, not how long is the experience.
… page 29 – Lexus presents a four-page advertisement for a PBS series with Charlie Rose. It contains fascinating excerpts from two shows in the series. This content was so compelling to be almost worth the price of the magazine itself – far better than many articles I have read in the past. It reminds me that advertising can be relevant. When we educate and inform others in a valuable way, we might do a better job of marketing, persuading, or selling than by trying to market, persuade or sell.
… page 56 – talks about a feature film based on a Beastie Boys concert. This movie was created from footage recorded by 50 fans from cameras the band gave them for the length of the show to film their entire experience. Over 100 hours of raw amateur footage was edited together for this movie. Though I don’t own a Beastie Boys album and haven’t been to one of their concerts, I am entirely captivated by this idea! It appeals to me because the band got this idea and implemented it (the collection of the footage) in 3 days – from conception to footage. 3 Days. This has been challenging my thoughts about how long it takes me to implement or being willing to implement something . . . fast. It also speaks to the power of getting your Customers involved in the experience of your product or service. This two-thirds of a page has had me thinking a lot in the last few days.
… page 66, the Play section of the magazine shows pictures and brief descriptions of new products. One on this page is called the Storm Tracker (This umbrella has a bulb at the end of the handle that collects forecast information from local forecasts (wirelessly) and tells you if you need to carry it based on how much it blinks. The more it blinks (up to 100 times per minute), the more likely rain will fall. While I don’t see many people paying $99 for this, I was intrigued by using a small “non-computer” device to give us data that we might be able to use. While I don’t design products like this, I am fascinated by how these types of technologies might be able to aid, impact or influence performance and learning in the future. The Storm Tracker has opened my eyes to be watching and thinking about this question.
These examples get me through less than half of the magazine, and I didn’t even share all of my insights from the first 66 pages!
Rather than continue in this article, I encourage you to read more on my blog, as I will be sharing more of these snippets there.
I hope that riding along on my journey has been interesting, and I hope you got an insight or two through my examples above. More than that, though, I hope that I have convinced you to pick up a magazine you’ve never read before and try this process for yourself. If you do, I promise you will learn something, and you may solve a vexing problem or identify a fantastic opportunity along the way.