Borrowing Creative Inspiration: 6 Areas to Boost Creative Thinking
Mike Brown

I’ll readily admit I’m a proponent for borrowing creative inspiration. Not anything illegal or unethical, mind you. But borrowing creative inspiration in the sense of always being on the lookout for inspiration in everything you encounter. Unless you simply ooze creativity, this idea of borrowing creative inspiration is vital to having new ideas when you need them.

6 Areas for Borrowing Creative Inspiration

Here are six areas where I most frequently look for creative inspiration to borrow:

1. Design Layouts

I can do basic design (as evidenced by an advertising layout award in a long-ago state high school journalism contest), but it’s not my forte. If I need to design an ad flier or white paper, I comb through magazines looking for patterns and spatial relationships to mimic. In fact, the structure for our advertisement in The Social Media Monthly is based on the advertising my previous company did that was very effective.

2. Stock Photos

For the past couple of years, I’ve been using as our main source for stock photos after a Twitter-based recommendation from Sally Hogshead. While definitely has some intriguing and novel photos, its European roots leave it lacking for photos representing some particularly US-oriented images and idioms. As a result, I’ll sometimes use an image on Photocase that’s close, but misses the mark as inspiration to draw or photograph something on my own that more closely fits the need for a blog image.

3. Blog Titles

Magazine headlines, especially for self-help publications, are great inspiration for borrowing engaging headline structures for blog titles. Again, as with design, headlines are not my strongest suit, so any inspiration for catchy blog titles is beneficial.

4. Social Media Content Sharing Patterns

I’m always on the lookout to see how people who seem to know what they are doing are approaching social media content sharing. It’s particularly intriguing when they change how and when they are sharing social media content. I adapted our Twitter sharing pattern from a prominent social media specialist who was sharing content more regularly and frequently than I would have imagined. When I saw Brainzooming had developed a sizable global audience, it made sense to move to a 24/7 social media content sharing cycle on Twitter, with planned tweets every 60 minutes.

5. Speaking Styles and Patterns

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve mimicked how those around me speak. For whatever reason, if I’m around someone enough, I start picking up words, phrases, and speech patterns they use. As a result, when I hear speakers in person or repeatedly via recordings, I unconsciously pick up vocal mannerisms. These often pop up in presentations that I only catch when I listen to my own presentations later.

6. Creative Thinking Models

Whenever I read about or become exposed to a cool business strategy success story, I ask the question, “How could you get to that same result again?” This question is the basis for many of the creative thinking exercises The Brainzooming Group uses in our work. Whether or not a company actually used the questions or steps we envision is irrelevant. We try to create a solid, strategic structure that would plausibly lead an organization down the same successful path.

Where are you most frequently borrowing creative inspiration to boost creative thinking?

In what situations do you borrow creative inspiration? How have you incorporated borrowing into your creativity? And importantly, do you share your creative ideas in a way that others can borrow from them for their creative pursuits?


Mike Brown is the founder of the Brainzooming Group. He has been at the forefront of leading Fortune 500 culture change, contributing new approaches in research, developing simplified tools for innovation, strategy planning, and aligning sales, marketing, and communications strategies for maximum business results. Additionally, he’s won multiple awards for his strategic brand-building approach to customer experiences in NASCAR and conference event marketing efforts.