Travel Time makes Brilliant Ideas

Posted: August 20th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Travel Time makes Brilliant Ideas

My flight to Boston was taxiing for take-off when the first idea came to me. Great, now to make sure that I can remember this idea and not impede the organic development process my mind goes through while I wait for the flight attendant to okay reaching for my notebook. Knew I should have taken it out of my bag as soon as I sat down. It’s cool, just an interactive visualization idea with a bunch of moving parts.  I’ll just draw a quick mental etch-a-sketch and be good.

I’m on my way to Boston (via Detroit, nothing but glamorous travel for this guy) to attend Inbound 2013, Hubspot’s inbound/content marketing conference.  This type of travelling for work is pretty new for me, and so far it’s something I rather enjoy.  Today will be my third time flying to Boston for a conference in the last nine months; kudos to whoever is at City of Boston recruiting all these conferences.

While attending these events does mean time away from the office for me, I’ve been a long-time believer that creative and intellectual workers don’t flip the switch as soon as they leave their desk. True story, a large percentage of my good ideas for work come to me while I’m in the shower or making breakfast, as though going through a routine tells my subconscious mind that I’m available to hear the solutions it has worked out while I was asleep. Not that I’m knocking it, it’s pretty sweet waking into the office with a brilliant idea first thing in the morning; talk about rock-star swagger.

The same holds true for these brief trips away from home.  Sure, I’m probably going to take 20+ pages of notes from sessions I’ll attend over the next 4 days, but I could have stayed in Phoenix and just bought the video package to accomplish that. The killer value, I find, is the ability to shift my perspective just enough to view an everyday situation from a different angle and work out an inspired solution.

The first time I travelled for work, to attend SearchLove Boston last November, I had four or five project ideas come to me while I was on the flight over, and a full dozen or so by the end of the trip. So, what is it that instigates these idea sprees?


Photo credit: Sean MacEntee

Maybe it’s just being away from the office, the chatter, the politics, the people already talking about lunch and it’s only 10:30 (for the love, would you just eat breakfast or stop coming in so damn early) that one guy who’s voice makes me roll my eyes and debate how painful it would be to have a seizure, but I doubt it. For the work we do, for the work we want to do, it’s crucial to have that team environment. I’ve tried work-from-home days, and unless I’m jamming out a massive project that requires minimal distractions (I’m looking at you data pulls), the comfort of not having to wear pants doesn’t make up for the speed of developing an idea during a face-to-face chat with my cube-mates.

No, I think it’s something closer to the shower situation.  Air travel is so procedural; be at this place by this time, stand here, sit here, entertain yourself to avoid going insane (how quickly can you get cabin fever inside a giant, pressurized, metal tube?), then hurry up and get to this other place in-time to catch your connecting flight, and you’re just one of thousands of cattle doing the same thing. It really seems like the slowest, least coordinated synchronized swim meet. I rarely claim to be a neurosurgeon, but it seems like, going through all this, my caveman brain can take over all the commands required to be sufficiently herded, and my higher-level though processes get some R&R time.

Regardless of the cause, coming up with fresh ideas that can turn into big wins back home certainly doesn’t hurt when it comes to getting buy-in from the boss for the next conference I want to attend (if you’re reading this, feel free to send me to SearchLove London, btw), and it’s great that breaking the monotony doesn’t mean performing at a lower level for a few days.

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