Business Columns & Blogs

Nancy Napier: Want more creativity? Take more time

We had spring break last week. Life was a bit slower so I spent some of it thinking about time and creativity.

Too many people assume that coming up with, shaping, or analyzing ideas happens in a flash, in a sudden aha moment. Not true. But I needed to remind myself of that last week.

Creativity takes time. Time for an idea approach and let your mind think about it from different angles. Time to notice disparate dots and then figure out different ways they might connect. Time to run ideas past other people and make them better because of those discussions. And time to realize the idea may have no merit after all (at least when it first appears).

Have you ever thought about and tracked just how an idea comes to you, how you treat it, and how you later use it, or do not? Try it sometime. I’m in the process right now of hashing through a problem, how to think about it, how to talk about it, and how to resolve it. I’ve asked about 4-5 other people how they’ve dealt with something similar and by doing that, I’ve learned how to present the question to them, what reactions to expect, and how to guide the discussion in a way that helps me find some solutions but also is interesting and helpful for them in their own thinking process. Win, win.

But key to this for me has been patience. I’m typically not very patient, but am learning that when I slow down and let the ideas and problems and discussions simmer for a while, the result might be firmer and more insightful in the end. With each person I talk to, I come away with a new thought and way to shape the problem and the solution. None of those ideas has knocked me over but each has had some great little twist or way of considering a point that I’d not thought of. As a result, the “stew” I’m cooking is richer and tastier in ways that wouldn’t have happened if I moved too fast or worked alone.

In the process, I’m also learning that some of the initial thoughts and ideas I might have had just don’t make sense or aren’t mature enough to be considered viable. When that happens, I think of those plant nurseries where tiny seedling start growing, away from wind and harsh conditions. That’s what I’ll do with those early stage ideas, just hold them away from hard scrutiny for a bit longer, nurturing them just a bit more before I bring them out into the full sunlight for viewing and chewing.

All of this convinces me that I shouldn’t wait for spring break to do this sort of thinking. Next step must be to build “scheduled day dreaming time” into my calendar. The question is whether I’ll be bold enough to call it that or will I feel obliged to name it a “meeting” to sound legitimate! Topic for another discussion.