Want to Think Creatively? Go Soak Your Head!

Note: Dwight is currently out on leave so we are running some “best of” blog posts from his writing for the Vistage Executive Street blog that you may not have seen before. Enjoy!

“Creativity is the residue of time wasted”- Albert Einstein

This morning I found myself preparing to head into a very important strategic meeting and deeply engaged in a pattern of thought that made both of my partners wrong. Fortunately I flashed on one of my mom’s folksy sayings which she invoked when someone was being ornery, oh, go soak your head! So I did. I jumped into a nice relaxing shower and came out renewed and ready for a conversation about possibilities.

With that quick bit of “brainwashing,” I reflected on Daniel Pink’s recent “Fridays With Vistage” webinar where he talked about the crucial importance of free or uncommitted time for people in the workplace to unleash creativity and innovation.

He further pointed out the foolishness of continuing our traditional thinking about management which, in his view, is a technology invented in the 1850′s that was created to produce compliance, not creativity. (I have also blogged about this topic here.)

What is being called for now, according to many thought leaders, is imagination, innovation, and the agility to both create and respond to rapid change. This view is confirmed in a major research study, “The Global Leadership Forecast 2011” by DDI. Unfortunately, this study also says 40% of leaders report they are unprepared to deal with these trends.

Jonah Lehrer’s new book, “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” confirms that great thinking often occurs when we seem to be wasting time. (The shower I took this morning was an intervention along the lines he recommends.)

In a review of “Imagine” in The Economist, they say, “Drawing from a wide array of scientific and sociological research—and everything from the poetry of W.H. Auden to the films of Pixar—he makes a convincing case that innovation cannot only be studied and measured, but also nurtured and encouraged.”

As an example, the article also goes on to explain policies the 3M company has put into place to insure employees take risks and innovate.

So the point is that as leaders, this is critical information, especially in light of the Global Leadership Forecast report:

  • Creativity can be encouraged and fostered, you don’t need to have a staff of innate creative geniuses.
  • Having the right environment for creativity is key – and it’s not a paradigm of “do, do, do, go, go, go!” that most of us think it is. (See the 3M example in The Economist article link.)

Leaders must insist on cultures that make creativity and innovation priorities. So how can you powerfully open up your thinking and that of the people around you? To gain success in today’s business world you may need to “waste some time” in order to figure it out.