by • 16 Jan, 2012 • InspirationComments (1)10547

7 ways to make yourself and your museum more creative (and successful)

“In the organisation of the future, the decisions that matter won’t be taken in some high-tech war room, but on the front line,” says Tim Harford in Adapt. You, more than your CEO, will determine the success of your museum’s next grand project. True, she gives you the direction and funds and – if you’re lucky – the mandate and freedom to design mind-blowing products, but it’s your creativity, cleverness and skill that will make a difference in the end. Here are 7 ways in which I try to stay on top of things, and come up with great ideas for future projects.

  1. Plan playtime
    Is your calendar always full as well? Plan playtime. Playtime is not just time you leave empty to do whatever, that doesn’t work and you’ll probably sacrifice it to to-do’s anyway. Playtime is for instance 2 hours to go to a great store and look around, or an afternoon to go through your old notebooks.
  2. Fill a random stuff folder
    I have a folder called “playground” in the root of my project folders. It’s my digital scrapbook, full of random stuff. In it, I don’t worry about design conventions, budget, or even copyright (sorry!). It’s simply random stuff, like the pieces of an as of yet unknown puzzle. Look through it repeatedly, and maybe the picture will become clear.
  3. Learn basic coding and design tools
    The rapidest form of prototyping is the prototyping you can do yourself in playtime in the random stuff folder. But it’s not just knowing how to code a simple programme and design its front: simply learning about coding and design helps to spark creativity as well.
  4. Buy a lot of books, and read some of them*
    One of my number one sources of inspiration are books. Unlike blogs, books don’t distract you with the features of the iPad 3, but usually focus on more important stuff. And when reading, read more than one book at once. I usually combine a (modern) classic with non-fiction and something “light” (biographies, theatre). You’d be surprised how many fresh ideas are hiding in Dickens.
  5. “Avoid optimisation, learn to love redundancy”
    This quote by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is about doing more than what you’re good at anyway, even if it looks redundant. Why not run some similar projects or experiments at the same time, even though you only need one? There’s a bigger chance to pick something truly great when there’s more to choose from.
  6. Put your ideas to the test
    No idea is full-grown and no project perfect at first try, or at least, none of mine are. Ask peers for feedback, talk about it at networking sessions, or do pilot runs with colleagues and visitors. Ideas grow and projects improve when people interact with them, and it’s better to start reaping the benefits of testing as early as possible.
  7. Do sports, or music, or cooking
    Innovating museums is a great job, but you’ve got to get out of it occasionally as well. For me, running is the perfect way to empty my head and make space for new ideas and creative solutions to challenges I’m facing. Also, most of my blogposts I “write” while running.

* There’s no need to read every book from cover to cover. Especially non-fiction can often be scanned, studied, reread, or simply thumbed through rather randomly. Although some people will disagree, in my case it often works better for creativity if I’m more or less halfway through five books at the same time, than completely immersed in one.

How do you keep yourself creative and coming up with great ideas? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Header photo by Aaron on

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