Innovation isn’t necessarily something we “do”, it is actually more about what you don’t do.

Let me explain.

Creativity is both a process and an absence of thought. Sounds crazy, I know…but truly, it is. Your mind needs space to process, to create invisible links and find those moments of insight. How often do you have a flash of inspiration doing the most mundane task? In the shower, brushing your teeth, driving, you’ll be going along, minding your boring business and BAM! There’s an awesome idea!

Why does this happen? Because the routine nature of the task frees up mental space for your mind to wander and explore. This is why trying to wrestle innovation to the ground through forced inspiration doesn’t always yield results.

Many tech companies have made space for creative energy and time a priority. Whereas in more corporate worlds the mindset is often on productivity. When I look at the groups I’ve worked with in the corporate world there’s less space for those creative gaps. In the tech industry, that’s how they get the creative energy flowing. They recognize and value that’s how the human brain evolves, grows and becomes stimulated. We can’t do that from a production only mindset, it’s a short-sighted definition of success.

In community and through collaboration is another place to find inspiration and new ideas. If you or your team are writhing away trying to come up with “it” then I suggest branching out and sharing your ideas with others or volunteering to gain a different perspective or experience. Join in on a brainstorm, mastermind, open forum or think tank experience. There are often different community forums organized on different topics, these are great opportunities for engagement!

Too often we feel like we need to fight our way through the process in solitude–and sometimes this is true–but if it just isn’t working, what’s the harm is trying a different approach?

I believe we need connection with other people to be able to see the new idea. Whether stimulating, exciting, challenging or annoying, it gives you a different perspective and may allow you to look at things through a different lens–as if observing “it” through new eyes changes how “it” responds.

Part of the reason for that is that any new interaction and relationship brings context. Context has to be part of the discussion because to ignore the context is to ignore half of the situation. For me, there are three aspects to every discussion — self, others and context.

Yes–this may mean slowing down to speed up. Sounds cliche – but the cliche exists because there is truth in it. Next time you’re standing in line for a coffee, take time for a few deep breaths and to look around instead of scrolling tirelessly through your phone. Contextualize your experiences, however small, and I guarantee things will start to change.

The next time you’re in a meeting, look around the room at your colleagues. Are you engaged with them? When you pass them in the hall and in the elevator are you connected or are you disconnected in the rush to get the next thing in your own world? We are only aware of context if we are willing to pay attention to it–paying attention to the gaps.

When I taught mindfulness classes, in a group exercise I would have people stand apart facing each other and very slowly step closer and closer towards each other. Try this for yourself with a friend or your partner, when you notice a shift in how you feel–either unease or discomfort–hold your hand up and stop, close your eyes and look inward to notice what’s happening and what you’re reacting to. Notice your breath, notice the personal space boundary between two people, to what’s really going on and then open your eyes and continue to move towards one another and repeat the process until your “personal space boundary” has been reached.

Slowing down gives us the space to notice. Take the time to figure out how you feel all the time but maybe don’t notice amongst the busyness and productivity of our day. It’s easy to lose sight of the subtle cues our mind-body is giving us all the time.

So I challenge you to start small. Look up from your phone when you’re standing in line. Breathe. Observe. Lean into the space.


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