If you think you operate in isolation from other designers, gamers, and the culture at large, you're mistaken. And worse, if you don't look at similar problems and systems, you're undercutting your chances of a successful design. You can get creative raw materials this way because, for all creative work, your materials are ideas. This isn't to say you swipe text and settings and so forth. Build up a library of resources that are both close and distant, and learn the options you have.
When you look to use ideas you find useful, it's best to borrow from distant sources; generally speaking, if you are writing a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, then swiping from other D&D adventures makes you a thief, whereas borrowing an element from board games or MMOs makes you smart. Borrowing from much more distant sources like theatre or history makes you a creative genius. Research the field, and then go far beyond that.
— 'The Process of Creative Thought' from The Kobold Guide to Game Design by Wolfgang Bauer
This is not a new thought, but I thought it particularly well stated. I'm reading a lot on game design (both computer and tabletop) right now, and I'm tickled at how applicable most of the ideas are to non-game user experience work.
Of course, that shouldn't be a surprise — the use (and mis-use) of "levels 'n grind" style game mechanics (among many other things) is pretty much a straight descent from Gygax and Arneson in 1974 to fantasy computer games to modern MMOs to the gameofication of software.Not sure what Gary would think of Foursquare, though …