Friends often ask me, “How do you find things to write about? Where do you get your ideas?” My answer is simple: I am a curious person, curious about pretty much everything, and when a topic catches my eye, I dig deeper into it. I don’t have a favorite physical location or a “thinking space” where I go for ideas. I don’t have any particular music that I listen to, nor a painting that I like to gaze at. I draw inspiration from the world around me.
When someone asked me this question recently, I got to wondering how other people get their ideas, too. I began looking into it, and I stumbled across The Economist’s Thinking Space (thinkingspace.economist.com), a site showcasing the places high-profile Economist readers escape to when they want to think.
The site features both young and older professionals and talks about where they go to tap into the well of creativity. Crystal Fleming, a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard University’s Department of Sociology, says her favorite space is the Luxembourg Gardens, where she feels her mind is most clear and alive. Elisabeth Chavelet, Deputy Editor in Chief of Paris Match magazine, says her thinking space is her office with her books, her perfumes and other personal effects.
In my opinion, though, the most inspiring thinking space of all was that of Gregoire d’Oultremont and Antoine Rolin. Of all the places in the world, these two Belgians decided to live and work in Istanbul. Their thinking space is an office overlooking the Bosporus. In their words, “From here you can see the Golden Horn, Asia across the Bosporus, and you can even distinguish trade ships waiting to cross the channel over to the Black Sea. This 360 degree environment where the sunset peacefully couples with the prayer’s call offers inspiring breathtaking moments.”
Their profile picture perfectly captures that spirit. It shows the two men standing on their office balcony, looking out over the magnificent city with their backs to the camera. In the photo you can’t really see what these two men look like, adding to the creative mystique.
For years, Antoine and Gregoire have been criss-crossing the globe. They are young and energetic, very friendly and approachable, yet they have a refined, diplomatic style about them. They possess a healthy dose of self-confidence and they are very good at what they do, developing and implementing cross-cultural communication strategies based on the principles of business diplomacy. Antoine was the first of the two to arrive in Istanbul, starting IBD Associates and then reaching out to Gregoire and inviting him in as a partner in the business. They have an impressive rapport, bouncing ideas off of each other with an ease rooted in self-confidence and the ability to communicate with others diplomatically.
If you meet these two men and spend a while getting to know them, you’ll understand why two Belgians consider an office in Istanbul to be their ideal thinking space. They’ve both travelled the world, living in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They know how living in another country can bring a creative freedom you can’t always find at home. In Istanbul they have found a unique dynamism they don’t find in Europe, and all they have to do to tap into that spirit is step out onto their balcony. And for two men who make a living facilitating business diplomacy, what could be more inspiring than watching merchant vessels from one country, waiting for permission to pass through another country on their way to yet a third?
For some people the “thinking space” is a place. For others, it is a person. For yet others, it is an activity. For some, it is all three combined. It doesn’t matter where you go, or what you do, for inspiration. There are many different kinds of entrepreneurs, and they all tap into that spirit in their own way. So no matter how busy your life gets, know where your own source of creativity and inspiration lies, and go there often.