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On a recent visit to the Facebook EMEA HQ office in Dublin it was difficult not to walk away with a feeling of amazement at the vastness of the space & level of incentives that they provide for their employees.

From the variety at the food counters to the snack pods on each floor, each lavatory provides portable toothbrushes, mouth wash, hand cream and so on. Then my favourite: the ice cream parlour while overlooking a game of pool before stepping outside to the roof garden to finish off my cup of jelly beans that I had just acquired from the candy stand.

It got me thinking about the reason why an employer would set up their working environment in this way. Then I remembered a talk I listened to with Steven Johnson, (writer – Emergence, Everything bad is good for you). He enquired: Where do good ideas come from, you know the Flash, Light Bulb or Eureka moment when the great ideas hits us. Where do these great ideas come from? Perhaps not where you think!

We all need great ideas; ideas for tasks, product names, business development, and blogs and so the list continues but how do we capture them? In the past the perception was that best ideas came from sitting down with a pad of paper and trying to come up with them.

After doing a little research I learned that the most common responses to the question: Where do your best ideas come from resulted with the following:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Traveling (airplanes, airports, trains, buses)
  • Falling asleep or waking up
  • In conversation with friends
  • Listening to audiobooks or podcasts
  • Showering

Very few of these are sitting down and it turns out that great ideas come mostly when you aren’t trying to think of them. I can see the huge benefits there are to having space in offices to encourage staff to move away from their desks and have a game of pool and mix with people from different departments, teams, sectors and have a more relaxed environment in order to relax the brain and get it thinking in a different direction.

Most ideas have a long incubation period as an idea is a new network of neurons coming together to form in sync with each other inside your brain. It’s a new configuration that has never formed before. We need to create an environment where these new networks are going to be more likely to form. This is where you’re working environment is so important. Whenever you feel stuck and can’t think of great ideas, change your environment.

Once you form these great ideas you have to cultivate them and develop great ideas through five simple steps:

  1. Generate
  2. Document
  3. Organize
  4. Cull
  5. Execute

If you fail to take an idea through all of these steps your idea may be worthless because it will never see the light of day. You’ll never end up “finishing” the idea until delivering the final product.

Take your best ideas and execute them. That is where success comes from.

I will leave you with this simple quote:

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”

Articles by Lorraine Bolger