Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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What is Inspiration?

For a while now Piers has been asking people what inspires them. We were talking about it today and I had a few thoughts that felt worth sharing.

I can’t answer the inspiration question well because I’m inspired by almost everything. I read as much as I can and try to always keep my eyes and ears open. I spend every day trying to consume as much as possible with the sole purpose of filing in away for a rainy day. The other day I went to SFMOMA and was inspired by the card that went along with the Duchamp fountain. Today in a brainstorm I was inspired by the Powers of Ten video and this afternoon during a conversation I was inspired by a recent post by Scott Berkun titled “Why Innovation Efforts Fail”. For those keeping score, that’s one piece of art, one video and one blog entry.

Ultimately my belief is that anything can be inspiring. thoughtless acts is a book on intuitive design. It includes pictures of things like people tying a tea bag around the handle of a cup to keep it from falling in or a woman sticking a pencil in her hair. The message is that people are finding innovative solutions to problems all the time and, as a designer, all you need to do is open your eyes to be inspired by them.

So when I think about inspiration, I think about understanding that anything can be inspiration. Most of us grow up believing that learning must be boring. A teacher must stand in front of the class and teach at us or history must come through some incredibly dry textbook. That’s not true, though. We get so much more out of those times when we’re engaged in an activity. Look at the detective work people put into spoiling Survivor or the research they do to prepare for a fantasy football draft. By being engaged we are more inspirable.

I’ve mentioned it a ton of times around here, but I believe the most important lesson of the internet is as a metaphor for our brains. Both are networks. My take on inspiration is to try and feed my brain as much information as possible and then figure out how it connects when the time comes. Often the biggest innovations come from connecting the most seemingly distant ideas. In the end, though, the best I can do to work towards that is keep my senses open to all possibilities.

October 11, 2006