Idea Champions just put out the results of a poll they did asking people where they get their best ideas. The answers are interesting - ranging from getting ideas while "mowing the lawn" to "using a creativity exercise".
It's a very good survey, and they do a good job analyzing the different states of being that people find themselves in when they're at their creative best. You should go read it here. (It's only 15 pages.)
What really amazed me is how many people come up with their best ideas when they're doing something completely different.
Many people said they come up with ideas best while:
There are two ways to look at those results.
Either in horror. ("Eeek! That means that I can forget about trying to think of ideas... it's obviously not the best way!")
OR, by realizing that those ideas don't come from totally stopping your thinking - they come from putting your brain in a different situation with different stimuli.
Let's face it, it's tough trying to think of great ideas while sitting at the same desk day after day. New ideas come from combining new information in new ways, and doing something completely different is a good way to start your brain in a different spot.
So, this survey doesn't mean the death of deliberate creative thinking. (Phew!) It just shows that our brains need variety to function at their best.
(Hat tip to Innovation Tool Weblog for the link to the Idea Champion survey results. Thanks Chuck! You were right about the survey being a good read!)