Toilets, Tea and Inspiration

Gimme the Gamma Mama

You may think he's doing nothing but he's being creative.

You may think he’s doing nothing but he’s being creative.

“Just think about it deeply, then forget it…then an idea will jump up in your face.” Donald Draper, Season One, ‘Mad Men’.

Even though the TV series, ‘Mad Men’ was about the world of advertising, it does explain why we get some of our best ideas whilst walking to the toilet, doing the washing up or getting into the car.

The lightbulb moment is really an unforced revelation of the sub-conscious.  Whether you call this being creative or resourceful, we all need to know how to solve problems and get ideas.

So, how do we encourage this ‘unforced revelation’ that leads to a bright idea?

Get your Gamma going

In order to get those ideas flowing, you’ve got get your Gamma going.

Gamma waves start in the chunk of the brain in the right neo-cortex, the part of the brain that understands the unconscious, metaphors, jokes and dreams.

Scans have shown that gamma activity signifies new connections between neurons, the formation of new pathways in the brain.

If you want to see where the Gamma waves start, look below: hopefully, this is what your brain looks like:

Hopefully, your brain looks like this.

Hopefully, your brain looks like this.


Gamma brain waves are involved in higher mental activity and consolidation of information. The spike, emanating from the right part of the brain, could fire off new pathways in any part of the brain.

To get the gamma going, the best state for this is to generate Alpha brain waves, the energy level that happens when you feel relaxed and open.

That’s why when you play, feel relaxed, or are doing something other than working on ‘the problem’, you get your best idea.

It’s the moment you give up racking your brain and walk to the loo, then ‘ping!’, you have a light bulb moment.

The very act of switching ‘off’, has actually allowed other parts of the brain to switch ‘on’.

Do as Draper says:

1) immerse yourself in the problem;
2) relax/go for a walk/make a drink;
3) The idea will suddenly creep into your head. No need to reach out for it.

So the question is, when you get stuck with issues, how do you or your teams find a way through? Do you use ‘play’ or ‘letting go’ in your idea generation? Alternatively, what specific techniques do you find generate ideas and solutions?

Let me know below and join the discussion below!

See you in those comments!

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