Dormant Ideas. (Episode 193)

Sometimes, an obvious idea can be right in front of you – or, as in this story – right under your feet

The Ghent City Museum is a vibrant and creative city museum in the historical city of Ghent, Belgium.

In one of the exhibition halls, there is a huge aerial photo of the city. The photo is divided into 1-meter squares that equal a square kilometer in real life. The exhibition has been there for years and visitors like to walk around on it to look for local landmarks, or perhaps their own home.

But one day – after eight years of having the exhibition – one of the curators suddenly stood on one of the squares, looked down and said: “We should pick one random square and make a separate exhibition about the stories, the people and the history of this one square!”

And they did. They call it “The Town Square”, and for a limited time period the museum picks one square kilometer of the city that they feature in the museum. A person from the museum interviews people who live in that square kilometer about their lives, their stories and their history. Schoolchildren who live in that square kilometer help create material for the exhibition, and so on.

It’s a fresh, local, focused way of telling the story of a city. (The museum, of course, also has more traditional exhibitions about the city, but the “town square” exhibition is a novel way of telling the stories of the city.)


This idea – To pick a square kilometer in a town to focus on – is such an obvious idea – once you hear about it.

And yet, people were literally walking around on these squares for years before the idea came.

Let’s call these kinds of ideas “dormant ideas” – ideas that are right there for someone to find, and yet they go undiscovered for the longest time.

The best way to get dormant ideas to come awake is to decide to look at something well-known and familiar with deliberately new eyes.

Have a familiar way you always go to work? Ask Google Maps for the alternative route.

Been having the same interior design in your room for the longest time? Take all the furniture out and put them in again.

Find it hard to come up with new ideas around what to work on next? Take your to-do-list and rewrite it in a different order.

In short: Take something familiar and make it a bit less familiar to help you see the dormant ideas.

The world is full of dormant ideas just waiting for us to discover them.

What are yours?





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