What makes you think?

When people would ask me what I do, or how they could get into or learn more about user experience design, I would always recommend they read Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think. I still do.

The other thing I would tell them was to simply look at the cover of Donald Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things and think about it. That teapot still gives a lot of people an “ah ha” moment. (This is not a plant or pitch for either Norman or Krug though I’d be pleased if either made a sale because of little old me.)

What does make you think?

I’ve been considering the converse, what does make people think? Not in the sense of solving usability problems or creating good experiences. I’m interested in where ideas hatch. Where does inspiration come from? When do ideas happen? What makes people (you, me) think?

When I ask, the most frequent response is “I get the best ideas (or remember things) when I’m in the shower” which is often true for me, too. The other piece of feedback from my not-at-all-scientific study is that music often plays a big part in the thinking process.

guitarWhether it’s wallpaper music, listening in the car, singing along, dancing around or playing an instrument.

Also interesting, the number of people I’ve met who are geeky and technology curious also play instruments. Myself included.

There has been a lot of real research done on the topic of giving the brain a break. Tons of proof that it’s tremendously healthy. I think we all need to pay attention to what sparks new ideas or rounds out an existing one. When do we remember that fleeting idea that wasn’t written down during that long conference call?

Take a break. Maybe a nap. Or work somewhere other than your usual space. Try a standing desk. How about a walk around the block or a stroll through the office? Take a shower (call it hydrotherapy). Visit a new website. Dig in a garden. Play a guitar (I keep one in my office).

See what happens.