An abstract piece of art depicts various ideas circulating in someone's head, including a gas balloon, mountains, and airplanes.
Respondents share how, where & when they get new ideas flowing

Not all of us are artists, inventors or original thinkers. However, in our busy and engaged lives, we do face circumstances or opportunities to create something that wasn’t there before. How do our colleagues arrive at those newly inspired ideas? In this column, adopted from the familiar “Heard on the Street” format, we offer our responders a chance to answer the question posed in the title. These are their replies reported verbatim.

Creativity Sparks

I think one of my greatest joys is to give gifts and show my friends, family and team that I appreciate them. Although I like to do fun things year-round, I love doing different things for Administrative Professionals Day. They are, after all, the ones who make me look good. I will spend almost the whole year thinking and shopping for my team for this day/week [in late April]. One of the gifts they will receive — and I give something each day, all week long — came from [Old Town Scottsdale] during our winter board meeting. Another gift came from a trip I took to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, last fall. And yet another came from a trip to New York [in March]. I’m only sorry I can never be here to see them open their gifts, because I’m always at the Southeast show. Last year I had someone video one of the days for me, as I had sent them a gift that had butterflies fly out when they opened the box! I think I would have enjoyed being an event planner in another life!

Judy Taranovich
Proctor Gas
Proctor, Vermont


I always like to go for a run to clear my mind of things. Not only is it a good stress reliever and form of exercise for me, but it’s during my runs where I allow my mind to go free and come up with thoughts and ideas to deal with difficult tasks I am currently faced with.

Sam Fung
Emerson Fisher LP Gas
McKinney, Texas

The things that get my wheels turning are usually some sort of business challenge — some difficulty resulting in less than desired results. This presents the opportunity to be creative in addressing these opportunities; in many cases, there are broken or nonexistent processes that need to be data-driven, detailed and documented to eliminate rework. Other times, we can leverage training and/or technology to improve operational or other processes that will lead to improved service quality, efficiency, customer satisfaction and profitability. Change that improves our people’s work lives, our customers’ experience and ultimately our overall performance is a constant for us. Keep what works and constantly look for ways to improve.

Boyd H. McGathey
Energy Distribution Partners
Parkville, Missouri

Definitely enthusiastic, positive people. It’s especially true when I feel like I’m in a rut. A little encouragement goes a long way with me. I hope people feel I encourage them to do good work as well.

Don Montroy
Bergquist Inc.
Rockford, Michigan

Problems. Problems spark my creativity. I’m a problem-solver — at work, at home, anywhere. I LOVE to solve problems. It makes my wheels turn to find creative or, even better, simple solutions to a problem that a customer, colleague, employee, family or friend has run into. I especially enjoy the times at work when the problem-solving is a group effort that leads to the solution. I love hearing the different ideas that are thrown out to come up with a solution to make a customer happy.

Susan Peterson
Rural Computer Consultants
Bird Island, Minnesota

More Creative Inspiration

Listening to podcasts and reading on topics that inspire me help get my wheels turning. I also feel energized by engaging in learning and collaboration opportunities with other people.

Lauren Clark
Bergquist Inc.
Toledo, Ohio

If something catches my attention, I like to see how that may be of some usefulness to something I may be doing. Applying that new knowledge toward a stale situation could add life to it and perhaps make things easier. Certainly, having an interest in how things are done behind the scenes always helps with being creative. I feel it is always more interesting how things are done internally than externally. In this day and age, with all the new tools and machines making our jobs easier, learning about how this ‘thing’ would help do this does indeed spark creativity.

Richard Strycharz Jr.
Walter’s Propane
Sunderland, Massachusetts

I’m usually most open to new ideas or approaches after waking from a sleep. The squiggly lines on the Etch A Sketch have all been erased and the slate is open for new ideas.

Bruce Swiecicki
National Propane Gas Association
Tinley Park, Illinois

When I think about what sparks my creativity, two things come to mind. The first is plain old necessity, whether it is being out in the field, 20 miles from the nearest parts store and needing a specialty tool or needing said tool and realizing it just doesn’t exist. Both occasions have led to custom-made tools (thanks to my trusty stick welder). The second thing I can think of is having too much free time. If I sit around long enough, the creative ideas start coming. I’m pretty sure that’s why my wife tries to keep me busy — but don’t tell her I said that.

Jon Shepard
VK Inspections LLC
Mercer, Pennsylvania

What sparks my creativity is the business possibilities that come our way! Always open to learning and thinking of new ways to approach business and keep improving! Makes the journey of business fun and full of endless opportunities.

Laurie Irish-Jones
Irish Propane
Buffalo, New York

The very boring act of driving to work is when I do my best thinking. My commute, unfortunately, is quite long, so I have a lot of alone time when I can think out loud, and no one thinks I’m crazy. When I hear my ideas, I begin to see things differently and often emerge at the end of my journey with a pretty good idea in hand!

Leslie Woodward
Fairview Fittings
Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Nothing sparks my creativity like playing some good music and having a quiet space to think. Our lives are so busy, and sometimes it is in the quietest moments that we have the most creative ideas.

Jessica Johnson
Asheville, North Carolina

I have noticed two different things that spark my creativity. My best creative thinking comes in solitude. The stillness and quiet lets me reflect on the problem or difficult situations in my life. Letting my mind wander leads to solutions. I can noodle on options that I didn’t think of during the fast pace of daily life. Brainstorming with others is also helpful to me, especially when the right people are present. Reaching out to people who are smarter than I am or have a different point of view than I do to discuss issues is very helpful.

Julie Johnson
Ted Johnson Propane
Baldwin Park, California

I don’t really have a go-to for this. Sometimes a nice, long walk will spark some creativity. Turning on some good, loud music will usually generate something, too! I spend a lot of time driving for work, so sometimes just a quiet car ride with my thoughts will do the same thing!

Tonya Crow
Bloomington, Illinois

Sparks Abound

Happily, we can all have our unique way of seeding new ideas, solutions and even works of art. I like the body-mind-spirit connections that our responders referenced, including the universal power of music to inspire. Since we are all more than our “business selves,” I leave you with these three quotes on creativity:

  1. “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” — Maya Angelou
  2. “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono
  3. “The creative person is willing to live with ambiguity. He doesn’t need problems solved immediately and can afford to wait for the right ideas.” — Abe Tannenbaum

Is Expansion Into the Cylinder Business Right for You?