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Force the Coincidence.

I’m a big believer in paying attention to coincidences when they happen. Coincidences, in my opinion, are nature’s way of smacking you upside the head and saying, “Pay attention!” In fact, I wrote about it last year in my post, “Force The Coincidence,” as a philosophy for spinning your own personal progress-machine a little faster simply by getting out there, meeting more people, exposing yourself to more perspectives, etc.

But recently I stumbled upon something that could be, in my estimation, your own personal, automatic, electronic, coincidence generator for idea generation. I’m serious. It’s a product I’ve been using for about six months now because, whether or not the inventors intended it to, it forces wonderful “idea collisions” that Steven Johnson speaks so eloquently about in his book, “Where Good Ideas Come From.”

What I stumbled upon was StumbleUpon, the content discovery platform.

Here’s what it claims to do.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it or tried it? It’s billed as follows on their web site: “We help you easily discover new and interesting stuff on the Web.” And it definitely does that by allowing you to build a profile of categories you’re interested in reading about (psychology, science, UFOs, etc.) and then serving up articles, sometimes published that very day on the subject that you can then give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” That way, you can customize your experience over time as it gets to know you. You can even suggest articles you’ve stumbled upon without StumbleUpon to be included in the platform’s index for others.

All great, but doesn’t even scratch the surface of StumbleUpon’s sheer creative potency.

Here’s its hidden power for idea people.
How many times have you agency folks caught yourself thumbing through award shows for inspiration? Or, as Jon Steel wisely suggested in a recent Ideasicle Podcast, go to a museum or a mall for inspiration? Or even as Edward Boches admitted in another recent podcast, “We all steal our ideas from somewhere…a poem, a movie, something out there.”

Fact is, new ideas are the result of two seemingly disparate thoughts “colliding.”

Well, there’s no better way to subject all of your thoughts and experiences, the ones already bouncing around in your head, to meaningful collisions with all kinds of outside ideas than through StumbleUpon’s gently organized, randomly served articles from the vast depths of the worldwide Web.

Try this and you’ll see.
Sign up for StumbleUpon, if you haven’t already. Choose your categories. But before you start Stumbling, write down the creative problem you’re working on this week. Even if you have a brief printed on your desk, write down the creative problem to lift it out of your unconscious through the fine motor skills of writing. Now, start Stumbling. Doesn’t matter which category. There’s an advertising category, but I actually find that one less helpful than the non-marketing categories. We’re looking for new connections and not just a hodgepodge of stuff that’s already been done.

Keep a pen handy because you’ll need it.

The psychology study reviewed in a Psychology Today article by Jeffrey Davis might just give you a fresh angle on an idea you’ve been exploring. Or the Gadgets category may reveal a new way to project content onto a wall, which could inspire a retail idea. Hell, the Paranormal category might just give you a creative idea inspired by the hollow earth!

The magic of StumbleUpon is that it forces coincidences that lead to great ideas. I highly recommend it as a tool in your creative shed. It’s free – you can use it on your PC, iPad, iPhone or Android.

Originally posted on the Ideasicle blog on January 18, 2012.

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