Want To Innovate? Interact With People and The World

Interact to Innovate

As someone who’s been steeped in the culture of innovation most of my career and in Silicon Valley for the last 15 years of my career, I sometimes find that those two ethe (ethics?) sometimes compete with each other. After all, the Silicon Valley ethos is one of the driven entrepreneurs sacrificing all sorts of things (social life, time, money) to build the next amazing new thing and change the world. This place is rife with stories of people pulling months and months of all-nighters and sleeping under their desks in order to just get world-changing things out the door. It surrounds you here. You interact with your computer.

Innovation, on the other hand, I find doesn’t thrive in that kind of environment. Innovation and new thinking come from breaking away from sitting in front of your computer, stepping away from the online world, and stepping into the offline world for a bit. Maybe it’s because the online experience is becoming less about discovery and more about relevancy. Since the number of ways we experience the internet seems to be shrinking, and those companies continue to strive to give us a hyper-customized version of the internet, assuming what we want based on where we’ve been and what we do, the internet is becoming less surprising. And surprise, IMHO, is essential for generating new ideas.

Have you found that some of the greatest ideas that you’ve ever had have come to you while you were in the shower, sitting at a coffee shop nursing a caramel macchiato watching the world go by,  or having an animated ad-hoc conversation with a colleague, usually while you’ve been walking with them? If you go back and think about it, have you gotten most of your best ideas by sitting in front of your computer surfing or getting out into the world and experiencing it? To innovate, you must interact with the world.

My sense is that our brains fall into patterns when they are looking at a screen all day. They need that fresh interaction with other things – be it people, things, trees, whatever. They need that front-of-brain to relax while the back-of-brain comes up with the cool new stuff. Maybe interact with nature a bit.

I find that’s where I get most of my inspiration from – from interacting with people and the world, as opposed to my computer. Make time to take breaks – get out – shake up your environment – do something different. Even a short walk to the corner for a coffee can give you all sorts of inspiration.

So put down that mouse, step away from the computer, and get inspired.