Tubespiration: finding ideas beneath London with Andy Green
I bought a copy of Andy Green’s Tubespiration when it was published last year. The pocket sized book, released to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, is a practical guide to unlocking creative thinking beneath the streets of the city.
Andy is an expert in brand communication and developing creative thinking techniques. Throughout the summer he has brought his book to life by running workshops on the London Underground.
The premise is straightforward. Meet Andy at a tube station with a communication problem and over the course of an hour he’ll take you on a journey that stretches your creative muscles in the search for a solution. It’s like a trip to the gym for your mind.
You can travel alone with Andy or bring colleagues along to help you with the task at hand.
Ticket to ride
I met Andy at midday yesterday outside the Hamilton House pub in Liverpool Street. He explained how the exercise would work and why the tube is such a rich environment to explore creative thinking.
“We’re time poor and too often seek simple answers to simple questions. Real life is complex. A tube journey is a fantastic metaphor to tackle a creative challenge,” said Andy.
Andy spent 18-month researching Tubespiration. It tells the story of the people and places that make up the history of the tube. He finds inspiration on every single platform and mile of track.
We travelled less than 200 metres before Andy told me how Liverpool Station had been a gateway to the UK for 10,000 Jewish children evacuated from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Poland prior to World War II.
There’s a bronze commemorative statue at the entrance to the tube that I’ve regularly walked past and never noticed. It’s a chilling story that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
“What might an emotional solution to your problem look like,” asked Andy before we headed down to the tube.
On the short walk to the platform Andy pointed out visual prompts and used them to challenge my thinking.
How would you visualise a solution to your problem (signs)? How would you ensure that your solution is inclusive (disability access)? Is there waste you can eliminate (litter)? Who might tell your story (platform announcer)?
The list goes on and on.
We boarded a metropolitan line train heading to Aldgate. The questions kept coming. Can you partner with someone to help find a solution (advertisement for a dating service)? Can you split it into pieces (tube carriages)? How would someone else solve your problem (fellow travellers)?
At Aldgate we spotted the memorial to people that died in the 7/7 terrorist attack in 2005.
We learnt from a London Underground employee that the flowers are replaced every month by the families of the bereaved and that one of his colleagues had constructed a stand in his own time. It was a heart-warming moment.
At every turn Andy enthusiastically sought out stimulus from our environment and a prompt to trigger creative thinking. Facts about the location kept coming; each with a question.
Aldgate is 350m from Aldgate East yet the two stations are entirely separate. It’s a reflection of the haphazard way that the network was developed.
“Might your solution be under your nose or do you need to travel somewhere completely different to find a solution?” asked Andy.
Aldgate is also the location for a Sherlock Holmes story. In the Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans a body is found on the track without a ticket. Holmes deduces that the murder occurred elsewhere and the body was moved.
“What additional information would be useful to help solve your problem?” asked Andy.
Back above ground
Heading back to Liverpool Street we grabbed a beer at the Hamilton House. Andy presented me with a worksheet and asked me to record my thoughts about our journey on a worksheet. We completed a series of exercises with the goal of finding a solution to my creative challenge.
The Tubesperation journey was a wonderful exercise in creative thinking. It was also a lot of fun. I’d challenge anyone not to have a completely different view of a creative problem and the London Underground with Andy as a guide.
Check out his book and seek him out.