You probably don’t have to stretch your imagination very far in order to picture yourself and your meeting attendees sitting around a boardroom table in a room with no windows, drab grey walls, and poor ventilation. This setting is a recipe for “boardroom table roadblock” when it comes to eliciting creative ideas and innovative problem-solving. When was the last time you were inspired by a setting such as this?
Creative ideas often emerge when we least expect them – and when we’re engaged in an activity unrelated to the situation for which we need a solution. My clients have told me that their best ideas often come as an “aha” experience while they are doing an activity such as:
• taking a shower
• listening to music
• participating in a hobby (e.g. painting)
• jogging (or some other sport)
• reading or watching a movie
• (just before) falling asleep or upon awakening
• listening to a sermon or other motivational presentation
• mowing the lawn
During these activities, our minds are engaged in a different way. Previous input is being assimilated. Our thoughts wander; we free-associate, and receive stimulation through our other senses. Many of these activities take us to the other side of our brains, and as a result give us new ways of doing and looking at things.
To avoid becoming stagnant, we all need these other types of stimulation – employees, managers, and CEOs alike. As leaders, we can hope that our staff acquires some new ideas while engaged in activities outside of work or we can help the process along (increasing the chances that we will reap some benefits).
When holding a physical meeting, consider a change of venue occasionally. Meet at a restaurant, an art gallery, an employee’s home, around a swimming pool, or outside on the back lawn of your office building. Attach a meeting to the end of a recreational activity, such as a boat ride, mini-golf, a cycling ride, a painting lesson, or a drumming session. (If you haven’t experienced a drumming event, give it a try. It’s pretty cool.)
Doing something ordinary (such as holding a weekly meeting) in a new location can often add a spark of inspiration or creativity. Sometimes, if you want people to think outside the box, you have to take them outside the box.