Creativity is an essential component of any successful business. It’s what separates good ideas from great ones, and turns impossible problems into unique solutions. In 2016, the World Economic Forum revealed that creativity would become one of the most important, in-demand employability skills by 2020.
Despite this, new research reveals that the way modern offices currently operate doesn’t encourage creative thought as much as we might think it does. Groupthink activities and open plan offices don’t give employees the space and quiet they need to find their inspiration. You might think that putting in extra hours at the office is a good way to get work done. However, that extra time spent inside and burning ourselves out is detrimental to our ability to think creatively.
Therefore, how do we find our flow in the typical office environment in 2018?
Find alone time
64% of people think more creatively when alone. The problem with the modern office is the difficulty of finding that solitude and, therefore, our best ideas.
For example, brainstorming is largely seen as a must for generating campaign or business ideas. Whileit has been popular since the early 1950s, it’s come under scrutiny in recent years for producing lower quality ideas than those that come from solo workers.
When it comes to coming up with creative ideas, don’t wait for the brainstorm session or any other kind of groupthink activity. If you work on a laptop, try moving to a space where you are looking out a window or simply away from other people. The sense of escaping others’ gaze and conversation can still your mind long enough for you to find your flow and come up with great ideas to share later.
If you’re not able to move your computer or workspace easily, disconnect yourself for a short period of time. Take a walk to the bathroom, escape to the stairwell – anything for a few minutes of individual reflection. Susan Cain, the bestselling author of Quiet, for example, considered the work of religious figures who had gone into deserts and mountains before returning to share their ideas with their people. She concludes, “Without the wilderness, there is no revelation.” Find your wilderness.
If it’s possible, suggest to your manager that you limit brainstorming sessions to allow more time for independent thought. When you come to that collaborative time, you are able to share thorough and fully formed ideas with better results.
An ideal place to find this ‘wilderness’ is indeed outside. The majority of us actually feel more creative when we are outside as opposed to inside. Science tells us that being away from the pull of multiple devices relieves that ‘attention fatigue’. Instead, we are able to think more freely, more deeply, without distractions, and experience more bursts of creativity.
Therefore, you might try to boost your creativity by taking a lunchtime walk, or a momentary breather during the day before getting started on a big problem-solving task. Also, consider swapping your commute by car for walking, or even splitting it between public transport and a short walk, to get your mind working before you even reach your workplace.
Lunchtime walks and breathers during your hectic day might seem like counterproductive ideas. After all, skipping lunch or staying a couple of hours later at the office is commonplace.
While these ways of pushing ourselves might seem like great ways to tick off more on our to-do lists, they’re actually harming our creativity. Studies have proven direct correlations between relaxation and bursts of creativity. It’s no surprise, therefore, that many inventors stumbled upon their idea while away from work. For example, the man behind the Post-It note who had a brainwave while singing in the church choir.
It’s also important to remember that leaving the office isn’t enough in the modern day. With smartphones and other portable communication devices, we are never far away from our work emails. In 2013, an overwhelming 81% of Americans admitted to checking their emails outside office hours. The Times even reports that those who check and answer emails outside of work are more stressed than those who more strictly separate their work and home lives. Avoid the inevitable burnout and crash of creativity by disciplining yourself and your phone usage. Really turn off when you leave the office, and allow yourself to relax. You may even find the answer to a problem that had you stumped all day.
Despite what the World Economic Forum says, creativity is not just a trend for the workplace. We must create habits and make decisions in favour of creativity for breakthroughs in our current jobs and lifelong careers. Put your brain and your ideas first and make creativity part of your everyday.
Thanks for this post go to our friend Laura McLoughlin, a Digital PR based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She writes about productivity and creativity for My Own Stationery.