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Taking Creativity Home After an Event

Years ago, I’d hit a wall in the work I was doing with fire data. I wanted to create new applications, visualizations, and educational materials around fire safety, but I just couldn’t think of anything. I started researching ways to brainstorm more ideas and stumbled across Tina Seelig's Innovation Engine. The Innovation Engine is a model of six characteristics that influence creativity, and using it has gotten me unstuck on many projects. Because these traits are interwoven, changing one of these key traits can create major change. If you’d like to watch the 20-minute talk that introduced me to the Innovation Engine, you can watch The 6 Characteristics of Truly Creative People.

The Innovation Engine is a helpful tool to use while you’re attending an event or conference. Let’s take a look at each of the six components and how you can apply them to upcoming events.

Habitat: The Inspiration from Attending Events
Do you find attending events inspiring? Do you jot down ideas that float to you during a presentation and have many “ah-ha!” moments during those days? You’re not alone. There’s real psychology behind that surge of creativity that comes from your environment changing.

As soon as we start traveling to an event, our habitat (or environment) changes. Our daily routine is disrupted. We’re suddenly in a place with a lot of people who are similar to us. There’s excitement, positive examples from the presenters, and networking with like-minded peers. It’s a simmering pot of potential ideas. It doesn’t matter what kind of event we attend or how long it lasts. The change of scenery alone is enough to get the Innovation Engine rolling.

Attitude: Finding Like-Minded Peers
Surround yourself with peers who are working towards the same things you are. That doesn’t mean they are in the same organization or even the same state as you in this digital age. Consider joining forums or groups with your peers.

As a presenter, there is no better feeling after a presentation than hearing from someone who heard me speak and wants to talk about what I’m working on or pick my brain about their ideas. If someone resonated with you from the event, consider reaching out to them. You’ll both get a boost from the interaction.

Have a plan for when it’s just you. You may not be able to do everything on your list and you may not get support for everything. However, you likely have at least one thing that you can accomplish independently. What’s that one thing that matters to you that you can do yourself?

Imagination: Thinking Outside the Box
Practice ways of generating new ideas on your own after a session or in a group setting with other event attendees or coworkers. Try putting a word on a whiteboard and writing out phrases related to that word to come up with new blog topic ideas. Reframe a statement as a question and then take turns answering it. Use a Venn diagram to combine seemingly unrelated ideas and topics.

Stalled Engines: Keep Your Foot on the Pedal
Once back at home, it’s easy to let the daily grind fritter away the momentum we gathered. Amidst the pile of things we were already doing, our new ideas shuffle to the bottom. All those nuggets of creativity don’t have to be lost, though. By applying the event's momentum to other sections of the Innovation Engine, we can keep fueling that running motor.

Knowledge: Taking Home New Information

  • Download and review the presentations for favorite points, takeaways, themes and ideas.
  • Take a photo of your notes and email them to yourself. I often rewrite my notes when I get back home, too.
  • Share new information with your team back home. You’ll solidify the information in your own memory while inspiring someone else.

Resources: Exploring Tools and Gadgets

  • If you heard about a cool tool, get a demo or sales contact from the company.
  • Add new contacts to your virtual (or physical!) Rolodex with notes about the person.

Culture: Sharing with Others 

  • Discuss inspiration and ideas with your peers. Share your excitement with those around you and talk about the changes you’d like to see together.
  • Write up a synopsis or meet with your leadership team/ manager to discuss why it was a good decision for you to attend the event. A debrief is an excellent opportunity to get others excited about new ideas and to advocate for continued attendance.

As you prepare for your next event, take a moment to think about how the Innovation Engine can help you unlock new ideas. Whether attending a local event or a national conference, the creative possibilities are endless! Sign up for Burn After Reading, our quarterly Public Safety newsletter, to learn more tips and tricks.

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