There's just something about showers -- the way the heat and the pounding water and the feeling of soaping up our soapables prods our minds into a more creative state. It's perfect for finding solutions to thorny problems.
But why can't we have those ideas all the time? For those of us who are creative professionals or aspiring masterminds, the ability to consistently produce original ideas and ploys would be invaluable. Because even the chance of such a thing was worth investigating, I set out to find some answers. And lacking any better ideas, I soon found myself taking a nice, long shower to help clear my mind.
The sacrifices I make for you people.
This is the first idea I had, and it's kind of an obvious solution. Too obvious, really -- the kind of forced idea typical of a feeble, non-showering mind.
I'd barely even gotten to second base when I thought it.
But despite its obviousness, it was at least worth exploring. So I extended my shower for several hours to find out. A couple of problems soon presented themselves. The first one is simple: Nothing useful in the world is wet.
What are you even doing here, dolphins?
All the things which make human civilization great are dry. Paper, electronics, our elaborate and beautiful scarves -- all of these things need to stay dry to function. And seeing as how we need these things for doing actual work, spending hours a day in the shower simply isn't practical, no matter what great ideas we might come up with in there. I tried messing around with whiteboards and waterproof pens, but nothing really compared to having an actual computer in there.
I went through five of these things before discovering that.
My next shower idea was to try interspersing work in dry conditions with short but regular showers.
Which probably involved a lot more of seeing me in a towel than my co-workers would have preferred.
But here, I ran into a more fundamental problem. We get ideas in the shower because showering is a simple activity, which allows our mind the opportunity to step out for a bit and roam free. But if we're bringing our actual job and to-do list into the shower with us, we ruin all that. It just turns showering into work. And that sucks.
This should be a happy place -- or, at a minimum, a place for private crying.
My next shower thought was that I should try establishing myself in my normal, dry working environment, and then to relax and think soapy thoughts and try to coax myself into a shower state of mind.
"Why is Bucholz grunting?"
This is harder than it sounds, especially when you're surrounded by all the distractions of the office and interrogations about why you're so damp. Even incorporating some pantomimed scrubbing motions didn't seem to help, resulting only in more interrogations.
It was the second of these "ask yourself if you really want to work here" conversations which led to my next (dry land) shower idea. Workplaces should love it if their employees consistently generate shower ideas! So why was I getting yelled at? It turns out they do love these ideas, but there are certain techniques more palatable to the business world.
There are a whole bunch of different brainstorming and creative problem-solving systems, all of which are essentially trying to replicate the process of creating shower thoughts. Systems which businesses will pay management consultants big money to teach.
"This is Roger from InfoTek Consultants, and he's going to be showering with us today."
All of these systems share a few common features. For whatever problem you're trying to tackle, they ask you to come up with lots of ideas really rapidly. They also typically ask you to not evaluate or criticize your ideas right away. By allowing yourself to come up with some garbage ideas, you might loosen up enough to come up with a really good one. You're also supposed to write everything down. Seeing your ideas written down can help you recognize patterns and connections.
Using these basic techniques, I soon found myself making rapid progress on a more general solution to the shower idea problem:
Do you see it? Do you see how I cracked the thing wide open?
The number of famous artists who have partially attributed their works to the consumption of narcotics is impressive. And it shouldn't be surprising; anything which can push your mind into a new state would certainly lead to new ideas. Yes, many of those ideas will be "I should lie down right here," or "I'mma fight that lamp," or "Where can I get more drugs?" But sometimes, those ideas might be cubism.
The "I'mma fight that lamp" of artistic movements.
Obviously, for moral and legal reasons, I can't actually recommend that you take narcotics to have ideas. For similar reasons, I'm not going to say whether I did the same myself.
But clearly I did.
Oh, you narcotics.
After the experimental ingestion of some hand sanitizer, my mind proceeded to get especially slippery, leading me to draw incredible connections across time and space. One side effect of this was that I forgot everything I previously understood about shower thinking. A second side effect was that I wastedly set off the sprinklers in my office. If I had to guess why with my sober mind after the fact, I perhaps mistook the dampening qualities of showers with their actual useful qualities.
Or I was trying to get bugs off me.
And although this did result in some quick thinking on the part of the fire department, which found the culprit behind this act in good time, it didn't really take much "lateral thinking" on their part, considering said culprit was under my desk, holding a box of matches and weeping about The Shame.
Unexpectedly, this whole episode led to the best method I'd found yet for generating shower ideas ...
So there was an unwritten rule in my company's employee handbook about this kind of thing, along with several very clearly written ones, and I soon found myself without a place to go during the day. Ironically, by lifting all of the idea-generation pressure off my shoulders and giving me just gobs of time for showering, this led to a nearly endless supply of incredible ideas bursting from my mind. For the idea-generating areas of my life, losing my job was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.
In other areas, it was extremely not good.
To be fair, a huge percentage of the ideas I got were related to secret touches, and thus of limited use to you or the market in general. No one getting rich off that. But at least one led to me getting my job back, so that's something.
Well. It led me to a way to hide in the ceiling of my old workplace.
Rintojiang via Wikimedia Commons
And again, this was mostly still about the secret touches.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist, and lurking above you right now. The author of the science fiction novel Severance, his next novel, Freeze/Thaw, is available right now! Holy s**t! Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
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