As a brand, we strive to be innovative. It has got us thinking about the activities of people who have this very quality. Do they share habits or circumstances that aid their innovative disposition? Is there something we can do to make us more inventive, original and creative?
There seem to be three main activities that are written about when thinking about how to become more innovative.
Sarah Blakely created Spanx after cutting the feet out of a pair of control top tights. She has said that she does a fake commute every day as she lives really close to her office. She drives around for an hour without a destination in mind to help her think and says this is when she comes up with her best ideas. She came up with the name Spanx whilst doing this.
Immersive new travel experiences aside, there seems to be some explanation for driving a car and being more creative as a result. That feeling of reaching your destination, but, despite having been behind the wheel, not remembering the journey at all, scary as it is, shows how powerful our brains are. In this situation it has done something quite complicated while giving us a feeling of being on autopilot. It is said that driving is firing up the prefrontal cortex of the brain and this part of the brain is thought to control much of our thinking including decision making and goal planning. It may be that this stimulation actually helps creative thinking. Now, we don’t want to advocate burning up fossil fuel but if you do have a commute in a car to work at least there could be some upside to the time you spend in the car.
Many people say that walking helps them be more creative. Steve Jobs reported having some of his best ideas when walking and regularly held meetings (and even interviews) whilst walking.
Most researchers agree that exercise circulates more blood to the brain whatever pace you walk at and some recent research suggested that walking actually encourages the brain to make new connections between cells and therefore help transmit messages between the cells and ultimately this helps us think.
Is it the act of physically walking or the fact that you are seeing a changing environment? A study by a team at Stanford University studied this. They had two groups, one group walked inside and one walked in the outdoors. Both groups scored similarly on their measure of creativity. They also took wheelchair users outside and found that their levels of creativity went up but not quite as high as those who were walking (whether inside or out).
There are many famous creative walkers from history – Beethoven took short walks to break from his work, Dickens did long walks, we’re talking 30 miles…at night…when the mood took him. JK Rowling has said that walking is the only real cure for writers block.
Working alongside others
People talk about ‘breathing their own exhaust’ when starting up small businesses. There is a school of thought that says that to maintain creativity requires interacting with others hence the increase in co-working spaces. W.L Gore makers of Gore-Tex and other products limit their offices to 250 people so that, although financially costly to the business, people get to know each other and thus interact and they think that this makes them more creative. Co-working provides some obvious advantages such as more readily available skills input and providing a readily available network from which to draw contacts, recommendations, knowledge. It also provides easy opportunity for face-to-face discussion and for a range of different learning opportunities which allow our brains to expand and perhaps open up to more ideas and thus creativity.
So as if we need any more evidence to suggest a walk is a good idea – let’s just stop thinking about walking and do it and then use that prefrontal cortex to come up with something we all need.