Sparking Innovation and Inspiration

Many of us work reasonably alone or with the same small group of people every day. One of the hardest things to do when working solo is to jump start the creative process. Without a group of people to bounce ideas off of, or even serve as an intelligent distraction, you can lose whole days trying to find the inspiration or motivation to push forward.

How do you get inspired?

I used to go to trade shows. A lot of trade shows. Some to speak, some to listen, but mostly, I went to meet people. Meeting new people with new ideas, or just new ways of looking at old ideas, always inspired me to get back to work and attack. But you can’t always find a trade show on the day you need inspiration,  and flying around the world on a whim tends to get a little expensive.

This is where skype and your cell phone come in handy. Like me, I’m sure that many of you have met someone at a conference, a Google Hangout, over lunch, or anywhere of a thousand other places and exchanged business cards and said, call me any time, I’d love to chat more. How often do you actually do that? Never?

When I find myself totally blocked and no amount of fishing can solve the problem, I start scrolling through my skype contact list or my drawer of business cards. I pick someone I’ve always wanted to talk to, but never made the time for, and call them. It’s that easy. Of course, they may not be available right at that moment, but you can set up a time ‘soon’ to talk, or you can move on to the next person on the list.

When I was designing and making jewelry for a living at Images Jewelers a few years ago I attended a ‘lot’ of jewelry conferences and training classes. I had collected a rather impressive stack of business cards from some outstanding designers, one of them was Steven Kretchmer. Steven was a truly mad scientist and created new alloys for jewelry that many people claimed could never be done. I found myself totally stuck on a design one week. No matter what I did I hated it, and the client hated it too. I was sitting at my desk shuffling business cards when Steven’s card landed on top. I decided to give him a call knowing full well that a world renowned genius would never have the time to chat with me, but just making the phone call would take up 5 minutes of my day.

I was shocked when he jumped on the line and we spent the next 2 hours talking about everything from his metal alloys, to motorcycles, to the latest in milling technology. It was one of the most fulfilling phone conversations I ever had. Near the end of the call he asked me why I had called to begin with and I explained to him the issue I was having with what should have been a simple birthstone ring design but how the clients specific requests were causing me to struggle. the largest issue was that he wanted to include both of the birthstones for March, aquamarine and bloodstone. The design box I had worked myself in to kept me from getting very far away from “traditional” 2 stone designs. Steven asked me a simple question, why does it have to be two stones?

You know that ‘aha’ moment when the light suddenly breaks through and you realize that you had created a problem where none should have existed? I thanked him and created a new design in less than 30 minutes that blew the customer’s mind.

March Birthstone ring

March Birthstone Ring

If I had talked with any other person this ring would not have happened. But Steven’s unique way of blending things that weren’t supposed to go together opened up an entirely new way of looking at the problem.

The point I’m trying to make here is that even though many of us work alone, we aren’t truly alone. We all know someone, met someone, or even heard of someone that we just want to spend some time talking to.  Even if you never talk about your problem, just listening to someone else’s problems and how they resolved them, or how you can help them resolve them, can break down the wall that is keeping you from moving forward. Besides, I bet they would love to talk with someone new too.

BTW, if you ever want to talk you can find me on skype at steve.gerencser. I may not answer right away, but its always on.

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