To uncover new ideas: go to where they collect old ones

You have to be open to new and different ideas, perspectives, and experiences if you’re going to be more creative.

The more ideas and knowledge you have to connect together, the more likely you are to stumble on something both valuable and unique. The best ideas, after all, come from having many ideas.

Just as important to being open to various types of ideas and perspectives is having a means for being exposed to them. Being open does little good if there isn’t anything coming in. Travel is one way to expose yourself to diverse ideas and perspectives, meeting strangers and hearing their stories, but the easiest way I’ve found to run up against other ideas is to walk into a bookstore, library, or museum.

I remember when I was younger—way back when large bookstores were a common thing—I’d walk into a store and feel in awe at the amount of ideas and works found there. Row after row of perspectives and stories and knowledge from thousands of different people. All I had to do to uncover those ideas and insights was quite literally opening their cover.

Trinity College library, photo by Alex Block.

Trinity College library, photo by Alex Block.

It’s hard to get the same sort of feeling when books are just static displays on a screen, or when you really have to seek something out to find it. There isn’t as much of a serendipitous encounter with a surprising book in the realm of the digital.

Photo by Samuel Zeller.

Photo by Samuel Zeller.

Thankfully we still have libraries filled with the ideas of thousands of people. Bookstores are still around. And museums offer a different type of idea collection if you’re not into reading all that much.

In any case: if you want to expose yourself to new and different perspectives or stories—the stuff that will undoubtedly inspire and invoke new ideas within your mind—try going where many varying works reside together. There really is no better way to serendipitously discover things you didn’t know you needed to know like walking into a gallery or bookstore and stumbling into whatever someone else worked so hard to put there.