This isn’t the first gem of advice on how to find the inspiration needed to innovate, but since I just decided to start numbering them, this is the first to get a number.
Whenever you think something will have an interesting result, but can’t predict the results, take the action as soon as possible.
Corollary: Whenever you can predict the results, do the experiment anyway, and then look for something unexpected in the results.
It matters not how simple the experiment is, or whether you find something inspirational in the actual task, or merely in the next things that pop into your head afterwards.
For instance, placing this TI Launchpad that I won at Maker Faire (valued at a whole $4.30; I was hoping for the $50 watch version of the dev kit) produced the expected result: the red LED lit up after a minute or two, indicating that the temperature sensor was detecting an upward trend, as the demo program was designed to do. (Tea, herbal, hot.)
But somehow, this simple action triggered a much larger idea that is only tenuously related to the temperature of tea.
(Having written this, and thinking about the importance of this advice, and how closely related to First Principles it is, and how it’s so often behind great innovations, I actually do think it deserves to be number 1.)