Building a Library of Creative Inspiration

Inspiration awakens us to new possibilities by allowing us to embrace our curiosity, move beyond our day to day activity and challenge the status quo. Being inspired provides us with energy and enthusiasm and helps teams to be innovative and creative in their approach to solving problems. Inspiration is everywhere, there isn’t one single source of inspiration; a library of inspiration develops through a lifetime of experiences. But it isn’t so much about the amount you have experienced or the types of experiences you have had, so much as it is about how you interpret what’s in your library. I’ve found lots of useful ways of filling and ordering my inspiration library over the years and I’ve also supported other people to develop their own. Some of the best feedback I have received from others has been as a result of the many inspiration sessions I have coordinated and hosted over the years.

Inspiration sessions are all about giving ourselves space to think differently by coming together to discuss a range of interesting blogs, articles, videos and podcasts. Creativity isn’t like a tap that can be turned on and off, you can’t force it, but you can create the optimum conditions for it to happen. Inspiration sessions help you build your library, but more importantly, it’s the discussion with other participants that helps you to make connections and unlock your creativity. Sometimes inspiration sessions will have a direct and immediate impact on your work, but often they will simply act as brain food or new stock for your library, to be referenced at a later date. We might find videos that will help us to communicate a way of thinking to colleagues, find tools that will enrich workshops and lead to great outcomes or find insights to influence decision making. However, by simply giving ourselves the space to keep up to date with current trends and thinking, experience shows that the sessions will provide a real impact, whether that’s tomorrow, next month or next year. It’s not always possible to measure a direct outcome from a session, but if you feel energised afterwards, then that’s a great reason to take part.

Inspiration sessions are based on a pretty simple concept:

  • Every session is given a theme in advance (i.e. How can we help build creative teams)
  • Participants submit one or two theme-related links to blogs, articles, videos or podcasts to the host
  • The host curates a reading list based on what participants submit
  • About a week before the session, participants receive the full reading list from the host
  • Participants review the list and read, watch or listen to the links which they find interesting
  • On the day of the session, participants get together to discuss the reading list

It’s that simple. The biggest impact from an inspiration session comes in the discussion rather than the reading itself. The reading list provides the catalyst for a rich, organic discussion which could lead almost anywhere. The more diverse the list, the more diverse the conversation. Reading your own articles and not attending the session is ok, reading the reading list and not attending the session is better, but reading the reading list and then discussing it with the other participants is where the magic really happens! Future themes often become apparent during sessions.

Thinking of running your own inspiration session? Here is a list of questions and answers you might find useful. The most important thing is to not overthink it and to have fun.

A: No. In fact, if you have to ask yourself whether an article fits the theme, it’s probably just right. Thinking analogously is encouraged, so in many ways the more tenuous the connection the better.

A: Yes. If the reading list becomes too large though, the host might use editorial licence to curate a shorter list, but it’s better to have more to choose from than less.

A: No. The host will need enough people to have read enough of the articles to have an informed conversation, but you should only read the articles which appeal to you — this shouldn’t be a chore.

A: No. The articles are a catalyst for conversation. If you haven’t read an article but feel that you can contribute to the conversation that’s great. It’s always good to try and read two or three articles though because if nobody does any reading it’s hard to start a conversation.

A: No. The power of the session is in the conversation. It isn’t necessarily about finding case studies which highlight good practice and then transferring that into your day to day work (although that might happen). If the conversation gives you a different perspective on a subject that you use to inform a conversation or a piece of work in a year or two, that’s a great outcome.

A: No. The sessions aren’t about measurements or action plans. They are just about giving yourself space to think about some of the challenges you face from a wide range of perspectives. Sometimes there might not be any direct takeaways, but the session will still have provided inspiration which might lead to action at some point in the future

A: No. Absolutely not. Inspiration sessions should just be a conversation between a group of interested parties. Try it over coffee or during lunchtime.

A: Sessions work best with between 4 and 10 participants.

A: Yes. You can share your reading lists on social media and even live stream sessions. It’s also good to run joint sessions with others from inside and outside of the sector in which you operate. Bringing in different types of thinkers with different views and opinions often leads to great conversation and the best inspiration.

Feel inspired? Why not try hosting your own inspiration session?

Originally published at http://simonpenny.wordpress.com on June 12, 2020.

Human-centred designer | Innovation @Citizen_Housing. Formerly led design @BromfordLab, Local Gov & NHS. Founder @CheekyGuerrilla & @GSJShrewsbury.