Incubation: a sterile, science-y word for a process that’s vital in hatching chicks, studying diseases, and *record scratch* forming earth-shattering ideas?
It’s all true. But for the purposes of this ad agency’s weekly blog, we’ll focus on the lattermost function. (Farmers and epidemiologists, this is your cue to start skimming.)
The idea behind incubation is that when you are working on a problem, and every avenue has been explored, and your head is exhaustively scratched, you take a little while to do…nothing.
It’s as easy as it sounds. Simply:
Don’t go digital.
Incubation is not an excuse to dive headlong into an Instagram hole that ends with your third-grade-crush’s girlfriend’s cousin’s Boca Raton pics. Save that for when you’re riddled with insomnia, like a normal person.
If it feels impossible to unplug, pull a “Pleasantville” and switch to grayscale mode. (It really works).
In fact, don’t do anything.
Boredom is cool and good. Your brain gets all blasé, reverts to a daydreaming state, and essentially entertains itself. This Wired article compares it to kids who have “nothing to do”—and then go on to build Cardboard City in the living room.
But sitting motionless at your desk is “seemingly unprofessional.” So throw yourself into a beige-washed chore, like answering emails or alphabetizing your pens by brand name. You’ll be doubly productive as brilliant thoughts ferment in your noggin.
Or revel in the mundane.
Creativity relies on making connections. The more connections, the more parts of your brain are activated. But forming these bridges doesn’t require, like, starting over and moving to Bali. It just means paying attention: to the barista with the cool eyebrow piercing, or the businessmen precariously balanced on rented scooters. As Anne Lamott writes in Bird by Bird, it’s all “grist for the mill.”
If you incubate right, at the end of sitting and staring and ignoring your problem, you’ll have a brilliant breakthrough and count yourself among the likes of Isaac Newton, Archimedes, and the guy who invented the super soaker.
And that will be a great anecdote for everyone back at the farm and/or infectious disease laboratory.
Have a tapped-in, zoned-out weekend, everybody!
-Your always-thoughtful-unless-on-purpose friends at Brokaw