It’s mid-August and it seems as if the whole of the UK is on holiday. Having had a few days out myself this week it made me think about how to hang on to the benefits on a break, particularly those relating to creativity, before the freckles on my nose fade.
- If you want to innovate, travel more. In ‘The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators’ the researchers suggest that “one of the most powerful experiments innovators can engage in is living and working overseas…the more countries a person has lived in, the more likely he or she is to leverage that experience to deliver innovative products, processes, or businesses.” And “if managers try out even one international assignment before becoming CEO, their companies deliver stronger financial results than companies run by CEOs without such experience—roughly 7% higher market performance on average.”
- Build in time for incubation. We’ve all experienced having ideas when we’re not directly thinking about them – whether it’s whilst driving, out on a walk, taking a breather from a particularly challenging issue or taking a shower. This part of the creative process is called incubation and is a crucial part of problem-solving and features in many different models of creativity. In ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ James Webb Young describes incubation as ‘the mental digestive process’, the part that follows the fact-finding and information search. He writes “What you do is to take the different bits of materials you have gathered and feel them all over, as it were, with the tentacles of the mind. You take one fact, turn it this way and that, look at it in different lights, and feel for the meaning of it. You bring two facts together and see how they fit.” Holidays allow for lots of incubation time. So when you get back to your office, think about how you can deliberately build this into your process, and that of those around you, particularly if you want them to think about your problem too. It can be as simple as circulating a well-crafted problem-statement well in advance of any brainstorm, and letting others ‘noodle’ on the problem.
- Smell the roses. Having just returned from a short break and spending time myself outside in nature, I noticed that being outside walking, cycling and relaxing indulges many of the senses that we tend to ignore sitting inside in board rooms and in the average business meeting. I sat and watched bees busily gathering pollen whilst sitting in a beautifully scented herb garden, free-wheeled at speed downhill on a bike in the New Forest whilst the wind whistled through my shirt and hair and tasted seafood freshly cooked on the beach. All of these things indulge the senses – the feel, taste, smell and sound of experiences as well as sight. It reminded me that this can be a great way to generate creative ideas – when you have an idea, think about how you could ramp up the sensory experience in one of the modes or several.
- Book more holiday! According to a recent study, only 59% of UK employees actually take all their holiday allowance. The UK has the lowest allowance in UK for holidays (28 days) so make sure you plan for and take everything you’re entitled to. Try to take time out during the day too, according to Bupa, 66% of employees don’t even take 20 minutes for lunch.