Brainstorming, creative meetings…we’ve all attended these, with very poor results. At most people simply repeat the ideas they already have and nothing novel is born.
Why is this? I think it’s because creativity doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. For me- novel ideas are seldom generated in a meeting rooms = at the Boss’s demand. It’s not that I cannot summon my “muse” on demand, it is almost always a matter of physical and mental setting. Let’s start with the physical- for me creativity usually required some distance and “buffering” of the external world- a closed room, some music, etc. it does NOT include multiple people in the same room and noise. But even this isn’t enough (and, to be honest, many times lead to procrastination). What I really need is to doze off, to drift and enter a “zone”. I need to be in the righ mental state of mind, which for means to be as far away from the challenge/ problem as possible.
I can achieve this better when I’m NOT thinking about the work or physically located in a work environment. Looking back, my best ideas come in strange places and are tied to specific activities:
Exercising (Running, swimming, surfing)
Taking a shower
Right before I fall asleep
So, the optimal work environment for me would have a treadmill, shower and a bed! But seriously, having identified these activities as especially prolific ground for creativity, the most effective use for me would be to engage these in a concise manner- with a game plan. So to induce more creativity, the best method for me is to:
Find places/activities which work best
Go to these places with a game plan/ specific goal in mind ( a specific question or topic that needs to be addressed)
Once the activity is over, Record, record, record whatever I’ve thought of (difficult to do if the idea pops into your head right before you fall asleep, but doable).
Once this process is in place, it can be refined (matching specific questions/mental challenges to specific activities).
Try to identify your (physical and mental) sweet spots, and engage in activities you know are conductive to creativity. And don’t forget to record it in the end- a good idea you’ve forgotten is just as useless as the one you haven’t even thought of yet.
I’ve recently had the pleasure of flying a transatlantic flight to the US. After several hours, I’ve finished my reading materials, watch all the movies in the VOD and was bored to death. Then I opened my laptop and started working. The hours flew by, and the only thing to stop was my battery dying after several hours. But what was so extraordinary wasn’t the fact that I managed to work for several hours, it was the level of focus I’ve reached during this period. This allowed me to do stuff I usually put off doing, like sorting all my emails, replying long overdue ones and actually clearing my inbox. I then moved to more creative tasks, like writing new documents from scratch, white papers and even working on some annoying documents such as proposal templates. I then moved to really creative things like writing blog posts (this included), a business plan for a friend and some marketing materials- all of these which require very high level of commitment and focus. It was like I was in the zone, or as some call it, “Zen mode”. And the reason for this is clear- with nowhere to go, nothing else do and with very little obstructions from the outer world, the brain can much more easily focus on the task at hand, and do so in an orderly, starting from the mundane and moving up to more resource demanding tasks which isn’t usually a good idea since the trivial stuff usually drains most of my energy.
And I didn’t try to multi-task, since there was only one think to do at a time.
This got me thinking- could I somehow replicate this environment and reach the same results in term of effectiveness? I could find an uncomfortable place to sit, kill Wi-Fi connectivity, put my headphones on and play some relaxing music and zone off for several hours. But I suspect this will not achieve the same impact- something will always distract me- a phone call, or some colleague at the office asking a question, not to mention the need to grab lunch or coffee. Nevertheless, I’m willing to give a try. And to make it more effective I will do the following:
Find a quiet room with no one else in it- minimum human interaction is necessary
Kill the Wi-Fi ; no need to elaborate, any incoming email grabs your attention and destroys your focus
Play some music- something to take my mind off work
Set a clock for exactly one hour -even the flight ends eventually
Allocate myself 1-2 tasks to focus on – any more than that and there’s a good probability I will just skip between tasks.
I won’t force- if I see this isn’t working, Ill terminate the experiment and try another time (no point in forcing creativity or productivity)
I will try this and let Y’all know if this succeeded in improving my productivity.
A recent article Carol Roth (@caroljsroth) discussed how “Not Every Creation or Passion Project Should Be a Business” (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245604). In the article Carol describe how a successful professional women wrote and published a children’s’ book out of pure creative passion and the desire to tell a story for her own kids. Once done (a tremendous achievement, no doubt) she was disappointed in herself for a long time for not taking the logical step of becoming a full-time writer/ publisher of similar books. She somehow felt like she has not done enough and that she was, in a way, betraying the sacred “entrepreneurial spirit”. Carol Roth states the opposite. She thinks that “creation is enough”- this women realized her goal (telling her story to her kids), created something novel and actually have a beautiful piece of physical art (in this case- literature) to last her a lifetime.
I couldn’t agree more.
That fact that this women decided not to pursue this venture further does not diminish her achievement. The fact that she’s done all that WHILE being a successful professional (a hedge fund manager) shows me that she understand Owntrepreneurship. She was on top of her professional game, to the extent that she was able to complete such a successful side project without having to quit and become a full time “entrepreneur”. Unfortunately, she is told by the world around her that this is not enough, and therefore she felt incomplete. But after hearing that her “creation was enough” she finally realized how great her achievement was, how successful she was in her daily life and career and that she did not need to take that “extra” step. She was already and Owntreprener, and a proud one.
The lesson I take from this story is that if you can spice your career with a pinch of creative work, related to your job or not, you are much more likely to feel fulfillment and satisfaction. No need to be a full time startup owner for that…