After a number of years involved with Innovation activities, mainly at Corporate level, I can confirm the idea that one of the fundamental ingredients in Innovation’s secret recipe is “having time to think”. Friction, sharing, serendipity, resilience, etc, they are all also very important, but today I want to speak about those times you are lost in your own thoughts, allowing for unexpected connections to appear, and how we can link this to an experiment proposed by one of the best Innovation experts I know.
If you have been reading some of my previous posts, you know that I am also a firm believer on inspiration, actually more on “being inspired” by something or somebody else. That is one of the reasons you need to allow time for listening or reading what other people have to say. One of the best sources I can recommend is Phil Mckinney’s podcast and website: Killer Innovations. I actually did a post on it sometime ago, but if you haven’t seen it, do check it out at http://killerinnovations.com/ Wait a minute… you may be thinking, wasn’t I supposed to be talking about thinking instead of listening? Bear with me for a moment and I will link everything.
One of the latest Killer Innovations podcast is actually about Daydreaming and Reflective Thinking. About how important these are for Innovation, and how this characteristic is found in many of the greatest minds in History. I will not reproduce here the arguments from Phil (you can check the show at http://killerinnovations.com/day-dreaming-boost-creativity/ or at the main podcasting platforms), but I want to pick up on a challenge Phil has set out for his listeners, like myself. It is an experiment where, with the help of the community, he will try to prove or disprove if the positive effect of daydreaming can be attained, and even improved, if we do it purposefully. The challenge is, for a couple of months, to set out two hours a week in “isolation” (no phone, no people, no computer…) for “focused daydreaming” using different sets of questions to trigger creative thinking, and observe the results. I like the idea and I, myself, have decided to join the challenge, but in a slightly different version which I want to share with you.
In your daily and busy life, do you have time to think? To allow your mind to wander? I have found that the best “thinking periods” for me are when I am doing other things in an automatic manner, what I call “cruising mode”. For instance walking or cycling, or sometimes driving (although I believe this is not a good time as you need to have your attention on the road for obvious safety reasons). Other people may say that it is running, working on the garden or colouring mandalas, it doesn’t matter, the important point is that you are doing something that involves your body but frees your mind. The best thinking moments for me involve physical exercise, not too intense (the only thing filling your mind is fatigue) or too complex (a tricky descent with my mountain bike requires my full mental attention), but as I said, “cruising”. For instance when you are walking at a brisk but easily sustainable pace, or riding along flat terrain. By the way, another thing that works for me in these “thinking periods” is to think aloud, that is, talk to yourself while moving; somehow, actually hearing my own thoughts helps me fixing the ideas and analysing the problems. I have to say I live in the countryside, so normally while doing my Nordic walking, I don’t see many people that may think I have some mental problem! 😉
So I have joined the challenge, although instead of isolating myself in a room, I will do it while “cruising”, probably walking, because it is easier to link longer automatic periods that with the mountain bike. I actually did it this morning for the first time and a few things came out, like the idea for this post or a process I would like to implement at work. Let’s see if I can keep it up for the two months… Check out the podcast and join the experiment. Even if it doesn’t work as expected, I am sure you will be able to extract some great thoughts in the process!