Nurture that space where your best ideas come to the surface
Finding time to think by Rikus Grobler of Namibia Innovation Solutions
The theme I am discussing in this series is creative thinking, the starting point and major building block of any innovation effort. In the previous article I touched on the matter of the quality of thinking and the importance of the right environment in your organisation to foster quality thinking.
In this article I want to dwell further into this topic, specifically looking at where you can find time to think, even if you are insanely busy, which I presume most of you are.
I have experienced many times the phenomenon where your mind is occupied with a specific issue, and then you start seeing things and making connections related to that issue. It is like when you want to buy a new car or mobile phone, and you have a specific make and model in mind, and now suddenly you start seeing that specific model everywhere, where previously it would have gone by totally unnoticed.
While I was reading on the topic of quality of thinking, I stumbled upon this article of Robert B. Tucker, one of the most in-demand innovation speakers in the world today (his latest book is Driving Growth Through Innovation.) He deals extensively with the issue of finding time to think when you are extremely busy. It is in sync with the current theme and I view it as my duty to share his valuable insights with you!
Tucker begins his reasoning with reference to IBM’s survey of global CEOs which asked the question to name the most important leadership quality CEOs need (but are hard-pressed to find). 1541 CEOs and general managers in 60 countries, cited “creativity” more than any other attribute.
So, what is causing top executives to yearn for creativity?
Tucker reasons that organisations are crying out for innovation-adept managers for two reasons: First, they are now focused on driving organic growth, rather than pursuing growth through mergers and acquisitions or even new markets.
You don’t rack up growth by doing the same old same old. You attain it by thinking new thoughts, assaulting industry and organisational assumptions, and mobilizing the collective imagination.
The second reason CEOs are focused on finding creative managers is the debilitating impact of mass distraction. At precisely the time when creativity is so urgently needed, most of us are frazzled and frantic and driven by deadlines. Most managers are over-scheduled, over-stimulated, over-connected and overwhelmed, most of the time. “I don’t have time to think” is a common refrain.
Tucker gives two pieces of advice to counteract the forces of mass distraction and cultivate your creativity:
Inspect your “idea factory” regularly.
The quickest, simplest way to check up on your idea factory is to look at your “to do” list. It’s a snapshot of the ideas you’re working on right now. What does your list reveal? Are the ideas mostly related to your basic functional duties, or are there also ideas related to larger projects and opportunities and goals? Make sure that you are not disregarding your big ideas while allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the tactical details. Checking up on your ideas will make you more aware of the many possibilities that are flashing into your mind.
Secondly, identify when and where you do your best thinking.
Ask yourself: Where are you when you generate your best ideas? When, where, and at what time of day do you generally do your best thinking? What do you do to get yourself unstuck when facing an annoying problem? How did you inject creativity to handle a task in the last 24 hours? How often do you come up with solutions that others compliment you on as being “creative”?
Jot down your responses so that you fully explore these issues. If you take time to think about these questions and their answers, you’ll gain further insight into your own ways of fortifying your idea factory. The next step is then to go to that space when you want to do some serious thinking.
The quality of the questions you ask determines the quality of the ideas you come up with. When you ask the best questions, you invite the best answers, the next topic.
I conclude with a quote from Charles Buxton: “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”
Tucker, Robert, B. Stepping off the Hamster Wheel: How to Stay Creative even When You’re Insanely Busy. Online: http://www.innovationmanagement.se