Tag Archives: Creativity

Bathroom Brilliance – The key to creativity.

Creativity is an essential element in problem solving and process improvement. But why do your really good ideas so often bubble up into your consciousness at the most inconvenient moments?

This article looks at some ways to harness your innate creativity: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/Mag_Articles/SA1064_Bathroom_Brilliance.pdf

For more articles on creativity and innovation see: https://mosaicprojects.com.au/PMKI-TPI-010.php#Innovation

Take the time to be creative

Smell the dasiesOne of the most overlooked aspects of creativity and learning is simply taking the time needed to reflect and think.  Professor Manfred Kets De Vries suggests that the fast paced, continuous access, instant response culture we operate in is eroding people’s ability to reflect and create innovative solutions to problems.  The pressure to ‘just finish this’ or ‘find out about (and hit Google on your smart phone)’ is usually too great to resist. But working quicker and harder is not necessarily working smarter.

De Vries believes that deliberately slowing down  and setting aside regular periods of ‘constructively doing nothing’ may be the best thing  you can do to induce a state of mind that nurtures imagination, creativity, and improves your mental well-being, by giving ideas time to mature.

“Learning without reflection is a waste, reflection without learning is dangerous” – Confucius

Business may be all pervasive, almost everyone seems glued to their PDA and feels compelled to respond to virtually every email received instantaneously but being busy and being effective are not the same thing unless you work in a customer service or support role!

If you are in a management, problem solving, or creative role a significant part of your job is developing new ideas or concepts that have been though through  and optimised. This requires thinking time.  But is creatively doing nothing really acceptable? Most of us feel guilty if we don’t have something to do, and we get a buzz when we feel really busy. And these busy behaviours generate their own reward by stimulating the brain to shoot dopamine into the bloodstream giving us a rush that can make stopping being busy so much harder. It really is nice to feel wanted, busy and in demand.

The problem with being busy is that if you don’t allow yourself periods of uninterrupted, freely associated, thought then personal growth, insight and creativity are less likely to emerge. And taking the time to ‘smell the daisies’ has multiple benefits……

The world of multitasking and hyperactivity helps us to delude ourselves that we are productive. The reality is that social media is reactive and not very original. It contracts creativity and can impact mental health. If we don’t know how to calibrate the balance between action and reflection we may become a casualty of information overload and psychological burnout.

Similarly, in many contemporary organisations work addicts are encouraged and rewarded; the behaviour is superficially useful to the organisation. Unfortunately, a workaholic environment can contribute to serious personal and mental health problems including low morale, depression, and above average absenteeism. The most effective knowledge workers are those who can both act and reflect, which means unplugging themselves from the compulsion to keep busy.

Deliberately doing nothing creates valuable opportunities for unconscious thought processes. Unconscious thought excels at integrating and associating information; we are less constrained by conventional associations and more likely to generate novel ideas. As well as being good for our mental health, doing nothing may turn out to be the best way to resolve complex problems.  Italian painter Giorgio Vasari summed it up well when he said “Men of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work least”.

Some of the ways you can create time for reflection include:

  1. Maintaining your relationships. We all need meaningful contact with people to feel fully alive. Maintaining our relationships needs interaction, engagement and time out from work. Conversation is also a powerful stimulant for creativity (just make sure you have a notebook handy).
  2. Saying No. Being able to say no is a key skill. Simply saying no to unimportant requests can free up time for more important things (see more on personal time management).
  3. Managing your sleep habits. In a perfect world we should all sleep around eight hours a night. Good sleep is essential for personal growth and creativity.

The challenge with taking time out to be creative is the good ideas always come ‘from nowhere’, usually at the most inappropriate moments (eg, in the shower). If this happens to you, you are not alone; from Archimedes in his bath, to Newton in his Lincolnshire garden (but no ‘apple’), brilliant ideas just seem to just appear. So the final element in creatively doing nothing is being able to trap your ideas when they surface.

ProductivityIn summary, a walk around outside or time spent with your feet on the desk can be more productive than working through a lunch-break – now all you have to do is convince the boss.

For a different take on productive laziness see: http://www.thelazyprojectmanager.com/

Capability Development

This is just a short post to clear my mind of some converging thoughts. The first background element is the announcement this week that the UK government has slashed its school building program (although the new government is still likely to do more then the old); and finding a place in an Australian University is a difficult as ever.

The second element is a couple of radio features discussing the evolution of mankind in particular the key point some 100,000 years ago when our ancestors developed trade and probably saved themselves from extinction. Followed by the development of agriculture some 10,000 years ago followed by cities that allowed the time for arts and science to flourish.

Arguably, the shift from low density, low interactive populations of hunter gatherers to the relatively high density, high interactive communities of the late Stone Age and Early Bronze Age facilitated the emergence of early civilisations in the Middle East, Indus Valley and Central America some 3 to 4,000 years ago.

The third element is a book on ‘The Lunar Men’ a group of natural philosophers, scientists and business men that largely kick started the industrial revolution in the UK Midlands (Birmingham) in the 18th Century. This group were the last of the European ‘renascence’ which itself was based on the ability to communicate effectively assisted by the development of printing and inter European communication.

All of these leaps in knowledge were based on the ability to interact and communicate in a more effective way than was previously possible. The supporting elements are improvements in trade and commerce and the ability (in latter times) to overcome entrenched opposition to new ideas. A modern example of this phenomenon is Silicone Valley and the massive leap in the way the world interacts caused by the development of the Personal Computer.

Waves of innovation seem to be partially serendipity, you need the right people and the right ideas, but this is helped by the quality, density and flexibility of the communication network between them. Discussion, argument, collaboration and competition in an environment that allows multiple independent threads to develop concurrently seems to be the catalyst for literally changing the world. Based on this construct, my prediction is the next massive wave of innovation is likely to come out of China.

The one statistic that for me sums up where China is going is the 60 million qualified university graduates that enter the workforce each year. Many of China’s Universities are world class and the concept of an annual intake of new graduates entering the workforce that is three times the total population of Australia speaks volumes for the skills, innovative capability and sheer energy being generated in this vast economy.

The region I visited was the Yangtze River Delta. This region has always been a major industrial centre and the emergence of Shanghai as the economic capital of China has simply accelerated its development and expansion. Today, this part of China has double the foreign trade of the entire Indian economy and represents 25% of China’s GDP.

The China I saw actively encourages innovation and technical development, has effective communication and a very large talent pool. All that is needed is a little serendipity and who knows what may be developed. In the same way efficient steam engines created the industrial revolution (Watt and Boulton were both Lunar Men) and the PC created the knowledge revolution anything may be possible (and predicting the outcome in advance is nearly impossible).

There are alternatives – the internet allows everyone to communicate so location is no longer a central issue to collaboration; and the major limitation on the Renascence was the entrenched interests of the Church and secular authorities. However, overall I feel the next major wave of innovation cannot be far away what it looks like and where it starts are open questions but slashing access to quality education and limiting the desire to learn certainly won’t help the UK or Australia be in the forefront.

On a smaller scale, every organisation can help its people innovate by creating the right environment for ideas to emerge.