As I mentioned last month, I recently saw the Disney movie, ‘Christopher Robin’. In the film there were so many nuggets of wisdom, and I was struck by just how poignant and powerful the messages were that were held in the film.
What was wonderful was that as Christopher had aged (he’s now an adult in the film), so Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and all the other Hundred-Acre Wood animals had too. I’ve always considered Winnie the Pooh to be a source of sage wisdom, and for those of you who’ve worked with Meta over the years you’ll know that we have often used his stories to illustrate our work. Now Pooh was older and wiser than ever.
In the film, Christopher Robin is now grown up and has left Hundred-Acre Wood. He’s become a responsible adult, with a sensible job with a luggage manufacturer, is married with a young daughter and has all the responsibilities that go with having the family. He has also lost his innocence, playfulness, his joy and ability to have fun. In his role at the organisation he is asked to ‘reduce costs of the luggage by 25%’ and ‘by the way, we need you to do that by Monday!’ So out of the window goes his promised (and long overdue) trip to the country with his family for a weekend break and work and duty once again takes precedence.
It’s heart breaking to watch because you know that’s Christopher Robin! And he wants to be with his family, but he feels he must conform and do what his organisation demands of him.
He’s being asked to do something that many of you will be familiar with – to reduce costs and he’s also going to have to be creative and innovative in order to get to that 25% reduction in production costs in a few days. The problem is that he’s stressed, he’s running on empty, he’s beating himself up because he’s let his family down and, as a result, the ability to be creative, to be innovative, has completely gone out of the window. How on earth can he do the seemingly impossible in this state?
Thankfully Disney beautifully conspires to re-unite that stuffy, uptight, responsible adult with his childhood chums and what results is a wonderful and inspiring exposition that creativity requires imagination and imagination requires the ability to have fun, play and actively do NOTHING sometimes.
Whilst sitting under the pine tree at the top of the Hundred-Acre Wood in Pooh’s thoughtful spot, Pooh delivers for me one of the most brilliant and sage lines from the film:
“Doing nothing, I find, often leads to the very best kind of something.”
That line stuck with me. Because I have found that when I am busy doing something, there’s no space for the creative ideas to come through. If there’s one thing that is missing in most of our work lives right now it’s space and time for reflection, thinking, and doing nothing. The result? A dearth of creativity and innovation in many organisations.
“But surely doing nothing is a bad thing Jo!” I hear you cry.
Well actually, when was the last time you did nothing at work? When was the last time you had real time to think? When was the last time you had enough time to reflect? When was the last time you allowed yourself space to just be creative?
A dear friend of mine is a top design consultant. He was asked recently by a large global consultancy to set up a design office for them. When I talked to him, he talked eloquently about how important the culture, the environment and the working practices were to a) attract the right type of creative talent and b) to ensure those talented people were able to be at their creative best.
When you stop and think about it, Pooh’s suggestion of the fact that doing nothing leads to the very best kind of something is accurate. We are so often rushing from one thing to the next that there is no space for thinking about anything else other than whatever is next on the to-do list.
Creativity and innovation require time and space. They require time for reflection and time for the inspiration to come in! If you’re busy being busy, the likelihood is that you won’t be very creative in your work.
So why do we need creativity? If I’m not a designer or in a creative profession, then what has creativity got to do with me?
The simple answer is – EVERYTHING.
If you need to write a report, it’s creativity that makes your report the one the board likes to read. If you need to write a proposal, it’s your creative flair that will make it a winner with your potential customer. If you’re looking to solve a major problem in the project you’re working on, the likelihood is you’ll need all your creative juices flowing to get a sustainable and workable solution. If you are a leader facing another round of cost cutting and efficiency saving in your department, you’ll need to get creative to make that possible.
Creativity is at the core of our work-lives; it’s a part of who we are. If we’re not being creative, then life and work is dull and lifeless. Creative places aren’t quiet and silent, they are animated and dynamic. Centres of innovation know that for every innovative and successful idea there are probably 10 that failed or didn’t come up to scratch.
To be at our creative best we need to have not just outside time and space, but inner space too. We need to make sure our minds and bodies are fuelled properly. We need to create the mental space to ensure we can give maximum brain processing power to the creative solutions we may need to come up with. Innovation needs to be FED and running on empty is a sure-fire way to ensure mediocrity.
So what can we do? We all have very busy work lives and a heck of a lot to do! And it’s important to make space for us to think, reflect on and prioritise our work. It’s also important to download your workday, either before you leave the office or when you get home, so that you can free up some mental capacity when you are home.
We suggest carving just a half-hour a week to start off with, maybe at the end of a day on Friday, or first thing on a Monday, or maybe mid-week. Perhaps you need to find a space where you can do nothing, as admittedly the likelihood is that in a busy open-plan office you might not feel comfortable in putting your feet up to just think. So maybe take that half hour away from your desk. Have a walk, or sit in a nearby coffee shop with a cuppa. The important thing is, that you do NOTHING. At first your mind will race with all that needs to be done, but you can always write those down, and after a while it’ll settle down and that’s when the ideas will start to flow.
Once you’ve got into that habit, find yourself more time and space wherever you can. Be that at work or indeed at home. I have found buying and reading a Sunday paper a great way to unwind, and although I’m doing something, I’ve found that it clears my mind of work ‘stuff’ and provokes different more creative types of thought. OK, so I confess it takes me nearly a week to read it, but hey.. Small steps and all that!
At Meta we’re passionate about helping you to be at your creative best. We believe that everyone has the capacity to be brilliant and amazing, and we’re in business to help and support people like you to be your very best.
In February we’ll be starting our Journey to Mastery programme. It’s all about how you can be your excellent best more often, so if this blog has interested you why not drop me a line and I’ll send you some information about next year’s Journey.
And of course we have lots of tools that can help you and your teams to be even more creative, and it’s part of our purpose to share those, so do get in touch if you’d like to inject some creativity and innovation into your team or organisation!
So why not practise doing nothing this month, and see if it leads to the very best kind of [creative] something for you?
I do hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s blog; I’ve certainly enjoyed writing it.
Have a wonderfully creative November!