Last week, I attended some meetings up at the Homestead Resort, in the Allegheny mountains of Virginia. (It’s a great venue, by the way, with a real historic Jeffersonian flair and a beautiful backdrop). I drove up from my office in Greensboro, NC, taking a lovely scenic drive over rural Virginia highways. As usual, I let Google Android Navigation guide me on the journey, which appeared to be a relatively straightforward shot, primarily on Virginia Highway 220 for most of the way.
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As I neared my destination, Google Navigation decided that it was better for me to leave familiar Highway 220 and take this route over the mountain instead. “No problem” I thought, Google Nav had never done me wrong. The road quickly degraded into a roughly paved, un-marked road, marked only as Route 606. Ominous signs indicated “No Vehicles over 25ft, Buses and Trucks strongly discouraged” and “Not recommended for GPS Navigation”. The last one threw me somewhat; was the route somehow underground or underwater? Anyway, I forged on and figured I would just turn back if it somehow became impassible. (I drive a BMW M3, not the Magic Schoolbus, so I figured I could probably make it).
Despite a narrow 1.5 lane road with no marking, no guard rails and switchbacks galore, I ended up being so happy that I took the road less traveled. The views were staggering, green lush mountain forest as far as the eye could see, and I had the road to myself, only passing one other car on the whole route. I was able to drive much “more aggressively” than normally recommended in Virgina, the land of illegal radar detectors. The adrenalin from the switchbacks and the fragrance of a moist spring forest really inspired me.
Routine and convention dull our psyche and our innovative capability. Your mind has a tendency to just check out if you are executing a routine task or driving a familiar itinerary that you can do in your sleep. The next time you have a chance, don’t drive to work via the same route you always take. Take a detour, roll down the windows and really take in your surroundings. Notice all the things you never noticed before. Tomorrow when you get up, don’t go to your normal daily staple of websites / blogs, StumbleUpon randomly or wander around on Tumblr to see something new and inspiring. Walk to lunch, instead of driving, and take it all in.
Innovation is all about recycling and synergizing other inputs and ideas from your environment. The more chances you have to charge your RAM with fresh inputs and stimuli, the better chance you will have to come up with something creative.
Take the road less traveled. I guarantee you, you will be more motivated and innovative once you get to your destination.