Habits to Spark Creative Genius

Use Stimulus to Spark Creativity

How does stimulus spark passion and creativity?

By Jeannine McGlade & Andrew Pek | Posted 10/1/10 | Updated 10/5/20

What do you think of when you see the word stimulus? We're sure all sorts of images come to mind (some that make you smile, laugh, or maybe even blush!). When we think of stimulus we think of "energy," "passion," "possibilities," "imagination," "excitement," "fun," "action." We don't know about you, but these words bring us energy. We feel stimulated just talking about stimulus! But how exactly does stimulus spark passion and creativity at work?

We see stimulus as the pre-state, if you will to being creative. In other words, in order for you to be creative and feel passionate at work, something needs to happen beforehand to jump-start that creative action. That something is stimulus. For most, stimulus is often completely random and unexpected — we don't know how or why the light bulb goes on, but it does. For example, have you ever been singing your favorite tune while driving, walking, or taking a shower and suddenly the creative juices start to flow and ideas and thoughts pop into your mind? Have you ever stopped to think about what it was that set these good feelings and ideas in motion? If you're like most people, you don't necessarily stop and think about what got you to that moment — you're just happy you got there at all! Most of us don't question it. More often we can only tell you why, when we are feeling less creative and stuck or not feeling passion for the work we do and not coming up with inspirational ideas.

In order to spark passion and creativity at work, we need to explore our environments, learn to observe the world around us with eyes wide open and bring our creative energy to interactions with others everyday — as a way of life. It requires that we work more with imagination than knowledge, celebrate failures as well as successes, take risks and pursue ideas that others might think crazy. Here's an example…

One morning in 1971, Bill Bowerman sat down to breakfast with his wife and was immediately entranced by the plate of waffles in front of him. In that moment, through a spark of inspiration, he clearly saw the future of running shoes and training techniques — two things he had obsessed about all his life. Soon after that morning, Bowerman began pouring rubber into his wife's waffle iron. From his experiments in his kitchen, he created a revolutionary running-shoe sole that gave birth to the business juggernaut that keeps creating and innovating. That business is called Nike.

Bowerman's moment of inspiration was no accident. Like so many creative-innovator types, Bowerman was often deeply immersed in trying to solve a problem or look for a better way. Running was always his passion. Because of this passion for running and his commitment to advancing the performance of athletes and athletic products, he had many spark moments throughout his career; he could not not be attracted to sparks that kept him focused on his goal and his passion.

When we seek and engage with stimulus of all kinds in a habitual and conscious way, we open ourselves to being struck by a sensation that we refer to as a "spark moment." These are moments when you take notice of a particular stimulus and the sensation and thought it provokes in you. These spark moments seemingly appear out of nowhere and trigger the creation of an idea. This spark moment activates a signal — an electrical charge if you will — telling you to take note.

Routinely putting ourselves into situations where spark moments can occur, sets off a wonderful chain of events that may ultimately lead to big, bold ideas while at the same time reigniting our passion for what we are doing. Stimulus is the necessary catalyst to attract spark moments on a regular basis and spark moments are the precursors to having great ideas, unlocking your passion, and inspiring creative action. It all begins with the stimulus.

Stimulus Tips

So then, how do you get stimulus that will spark your passion and creativity at work? Try these tips to get started:

Change directions.

Take a new route to work — if you drive, take the bus; if you take the bus, drive…you never know what you might see when you go a different way.

Get out and about.

Instead of sitting at your desk to write that report or review that presentation, go to a local coffee shop or the cafeteria or a spot with some natural light — these different spaces and places will give you a vibe that will get you inspired and more likely to attract spark moments. And, if that doesn't work, download a favorite tune and put on your earphones to give you some inspiration!

Read something new.

The next time you are at your local bookstore or newsstand, pick up a magazine that you would never read. Buy it. And read it. You might be surprised what sparks are triggered by the stimulus of a "foreign" magazine.

Look at things differently.

Maybe you've got the "same old, same old" presentation or work product to present to your boss or team. Use this as an opportunity to "change the way you look at things." Try adding your own expression to the work or engaging others in the conversation. Even asking yourself, "How might I look at this differently?" will change the way you look at it.


Grab a journal (or pad, or notebook) and start recording what it is that you observe while you are at work or outside of work. Don't evaluate what you see, simply describe what you see, hear or read. After a week or so of capturing these observations, review them. Any ideas that come to mind based on what you've recorded? How might you use these at work or in your life? Any spark moments?

As Patanjali said, "When you are inspired, dormant forces, faculties, and talents become alive." Stimulus is the key to that inspiration…spark moments are in the universe waiting for us to capture them, shape them, and apply them to our everyday lives so we can live more freely, generate new possibilities, feel more passion and bring to life the dormant forces, faculties and talents that live in each and every one of us.

©2010 Jeannine McGlade & Andrew Pek. All rights reserved.

Habits to Spark Your Creative Genius

Jeannine McGladeJeannine McGlade and Andrew Pek are authors, speakers, trainers, and thought leaders in making innovation and creativity a habit. more