A Start Up Trek – Learning How To Inspire Creativity

Geek Culture

Whiteboard with notes on the nature of creativity.Whiteboard with notes on the nature of creativity.

Notes on Creativity. Photo by jeanbaptisteparis Creative Commons license.

I am starting a new public-access prototyping lab in Huntsville, Alabama, called MindGear Labs, based on the fab lab model. I’ve dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and have done a fair amount of research on the topic. But this is my first attempt at starting a business. Here is where I document weekly my mistakes and successes in creating a business from the ground up.

I’m back. Most of me, anyway. Still mending a broken arm and holes in my foot. But otherwise I’m doing ok. Thanks to all of you that sent me well wishes.

As I promised in my last post I have some good news. First I’ve signed a lease and work is commencing on getting the space ready for opening. For the Huntsville natives reading, the space is in the Beacon Ridge Office Center off Hwy 20/Madison Blvd east of Hughes Road. Second, with a location I was finally able to close on the SBA loan. I should start ordering equipment next week. Third, after several setbacks I have a web development company under contract and hope to have a website up by the end of the month. The current site I did myself and needs a lot of work. Finally, it looks like months and months of networking is paying off. I’ve had several people tell me they have heard of MindGear from others which has translated into invitations to talk and business leads.

So with all that I’m planning to open in November. Had to push back opening yet again because the arm is slowing me down. I remember fondly of the time I thought I’d be open by July.

Lately I’ve been thinking of ways to promote the creative spirit of members while they’re working in the lab. Doing a little research gave some well known ideas, like playing classical music or generating a citrus aroma. The effectiveness of these methods is disputed. One option is to apply micro-ampere current through the earlobes. I think that would have to be an optional service. A Moderate amount of noise is supposed to be better than low or high noise in fostering creativity. That explains how I couldn’t concentrate at the library in college. Solid blue color is supposed to enhance creativity while red improves attention to detail.

A big part of promoting creativity is creating a culture that celebrates creativity amongst the membership. That is a more complicated problem. If you’ve been around engineers at all you know we as a group aren’t shy about telling someone they have a dumb idea. And the more pessimistic engineers (they prefer to be called experienced) will try to kill good ideas that they perceive as too daring or too similar to previously attempted projects.

So I’ve got to promote a tolerance for others’ ideas. But even that causes issues. I once had a half hour discussion with a man who was convinced that he had solved the automotive transportation problem. He was going to take an old car and install additional alternators and an electric motor. After initial start with an engine the alternators would generate enough power to keep the car moving. I could not get him to understand that in the process of generating electricity the alternator would create a retarding torque that would slow the car down. I gave up when he finally decided he would need to add more alternators. The gentleman in question was genuinely nice and our conversation was a genial one. I’ve wondered what I will do when someone like him comes into the lab. Do I continue to try to convince him that his idea violates the laws of physics, spending time and effort when I could be doing something productive and risk alienating the man, or do I let him explore the idea on his own, possibly looking like I’m callously profiting from his ignorance of perpetual motion machines?

It seems to me that there is a lot of discussion on how to promote creativity but precious little quantifiable data. I guess that makes sense. If we knew for sure how to stimulate our brains we’d go through life having classical music constantly played at us, walking through bright red colored rooms with the smell of lemons filling our nostrils. Or something like that. Like everything else about MindGear, I’ll experiment and see what works. Let me know if you know of any ways to create a creative environment.

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