Red in the face

Ever wonder if we just try too hard?

The forcing of ideas and innovation is a 21st century obsession. We organise far too many events and gatherings to be useful, we build prescriptive spaces that do nothing but stimulate the opposite response, we demand unique solutions in our sourcing activities and scorn those who respond only with a commitment to effectively do what is asked – and because one might be led to believe there is something inherently wrong with absolutely everything, we preach incessantly about the need for new ideas. Red in the face and with an aching diaphragm, the results of this pressure upon ourselves and others is diminutive and unsatisfying. It never feels right.

In this unparalleled impatience, we have lost the art of allowing our thoughts and deliberations to ferment until ready. Breakthroughs are not made to order, new ground is not won through a scheduled and facilitated thought shower. Instead, they are nurtured in surroundings that work uniquely for us. Sometimes these environments are damp (the shower), cold (a long walk), sweaty (the gym), in sporadic and jerky motion (the bus), or are entirely new and surprising. They are often lonely, allowing the processing the outcomes of our interactions rather than at the time of the partaking – some of the words most powerful are those that re-appear in re-ordered illumination in a later moment. While our conversation and interaction are incredible ad necessary stimulants, we need to have the patience to know that they may end at just that for the time being.

In demanding innovation, we have perfected the art of spawning weak ideas, diluted by the demands we place on ourselves which are in turn exacerbated by the sum of these collective pressures. Beneficially, we might all cease at once, and stop trying to the turn the whole damn world into the curse of the age, a “think tank”.

We might lighten our spirits by putting away the flipcharts, post its and markers, and drifting into the evening subconsciously mulling it all over instead. We need to give our ideas time to form, to breathe, to strengthen, to let us know when they are ready – and to do this at our own pace, in our own way.

Thought is a natural activity. It arrives when its ready.


6 thoughts on “Red in the face

  1. Another great post Neil. In workshops I start off by getting people to talk about where and when they get ideas – and you’ve covered some of the typical answers above. I have had only one person say the desk, and none of the others said the office. However, where those ideas get worked through (often with others) is very important and needs to be well designed (although not over designed!)

  2. Pingback: Creative edges | In the Flow

  3. Interesting commentary and post, explores the point that there’s a substantial dis-connect between what we think of as innovative and what actually IS innovative. Like Mark Catchlove’s comment above, the desk just isn’t the place where the majority of people think innovation ! You can imagine it – “oh yes, i’m thinking really innovatively sitting right here at my desk with all the other people at their desks, in a row, typing away on my laptop, looking at my desk screen”.

    Innovation often comes from the space and time to conduct lateral thinking, which often comes, in my experience at least, when the mind is able to stop the process of managing the everyday tasks and can explore abstract ideas and solutions. No doubt there’s a psychological model for it. Lateral thinking – again from a personal perspective – tends to come from an environment where there are stressors – or the opposite – an environment with no stressors. i.e. With stressors – commuting on a scooter, with the stress involved in staying upright, safe, observing conditions, or with no stress, in the shower with no email, phone or clock.

  4. I used to write training courses and plan workshops. Each time as I was asked to design new learning I would first clarify what the learner wanted; then I would do some initial research and get some idea of what was involved in the topic and what other people were saying about it. Then I would go and do other work (even if it was domestic work as I was self employed) and not would return to my new project until some days later when I would find it pretty much fully formed in my mind ready to written down. Worked every time. Not so easy now I am an employee in an open plan office.

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