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Musings: Where Do Ideas Come From?

We’re asked all the time, “How do you come up with new ideas?” The truth is, there’s no one answer. We’ve asked our associates for their thoughts, and we’ll be sharing them over time. The first response comes from Carolyn McNeeley, Design Project Manager. Carolyn is well-known at NS as an elaborate pumpkin-carver. She enjoys designing and carving pumpkins with her husband and three girls. Below are pictured some of Carolyn’s creations.

Carolyn McNeeley
Carolyn McNeeley, Design Project Manager


“The team here at NS brings their whole selves and all of our life experiences to every project. We are all so much more than just our job title. In addition to being a Designer and a Project Manager, I’m also a wife, mother, athlete, Girl Scout Leader, Halloween Enthusiast, Scuba Diver, etc. We work on such a wide variety of projects at Nottingham Spirk and when we pull from everyone’s backgrounds, we always find someone who has a connection. For example, I’m a saltwater aficionado — my husband and I have saltwater tanks at home, and we’re scuba divers, so when a project like that comes along, I’m eager to help fuel ideas by using the knowledge I already have as a starting point. Additionally, someone coming to the project from a different perspective might have experience with plumbing, and our ideas start to mesh together.

“We collaborate and spark each other’s initial ideas. The team here is trained to think outside the box, as cliché as that sounds. We strive to look at things from different perspectives. I hear what others are saying and understand but also add my own spin to it and vice versa. Synergy is critical to concept development. Having the right people in the room together is essential.

Carolyn's Carved Pumpkins“Ideas also come from the way we work on multiple projects at once at NS. Tackling one project for part of the day or part of the week, and something at the opposite end of the spectrum next, it keeps the creativity rolling. With experience, we learn where to seek inspiration when we are stumped on a specific project. We know to brainstorm with another team member, even briefly over coffee in the kitchen, or search for a different yet parallel product or service category, or even look through the endless archives of ideas generated over the past years at NS. Everyone here is generous with their time and thoughts and we go out of our way to give credit to each other.

“One example is a medical project we worked on. Being a designer, I haven’t been in a surgical suite, that’s not my thing, but the way we work here is you dive right in. So we observed surgeries as part of the research, and we purchased fake bones so we could test and understand how to use the different instruments. It always amazes me how much we learn in a very short amount of time, and the quality of ideas we are able to generate so efficiently. That’s part of the magic concoction — we gain extensive new knowledge from each project, but we also can reference other things we know about or have life experience with, then we form a connection when someone else might not.

Watch the short video below, presented by transom.org, which inspired us.

About us: Nottingham Spirk is a business innovation and product design firm with an unrivaled record of delivering disruptive consumer goods, medical devices, and packaging design solutions to market. We collaborate with Fortune 1,000 companies, funded start-ups and non-profit organizations to discover, design and execute product programs and strategic business platforms that will wow customers, grow markets and generate new revenue streams. Learn more about what makes us different here.


Topics: innovative ideas, News, Nottingham Spirk team, product design, cultivating ideas, ideas, industrial design, product innovation

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