Did you know that most creative ideas do not come to us while we are at work? In fact, according to a study by Barry Kaufman, cognitive scientist and co-author of Wired to Create72% of people get creative ideas in the shower, a statistic that is somewhat telling about how we think and find creative ideas.

According to the research, the reason we tend to think best in places like the shower is that our mind needs to wander, to achieve an open, Zen-like state undistracted by the trivialities of everyday life. It’s no fluke that we have our best insights when we relax – our brains are wired for that to happen.

Relax to innovate? It seems counterintuitive. What about pressure and stress, don’t they stir the brain juices into action? Don’t we work better when a deadline is looming, the boss hovering?

To better understand the process, we must define two important ingredients – creativity and innovation. Creativity is about coming up with new ideas, innovation is the application of those ideas to create something different. One goes before the other, like a spark before the fire.

And crucially, they need time to develop. In order for a company to be innovative, it needs to invest in creativity, or rather, the time and place for employees to be creative. While business leaders are starting to see creativity as a driver of growth, few know how to cultivate it and put it into every day practice.

There are some companies, however, who are full of bright sparks…

The 20% solution

Google’s 20% policy is a good example of a company empowering its employee’s creativity. Allowing people to spend 20% of their time on projects they are passionate about keeps Google on the list as one of the most innovative companies in the world. The outcomes speak for themselves: Gmail, Google Maps, Twitter, Slack, and Groupon all started as side projects.

Indeed, it’s true that companies either innovate or they die. Those who innovate create the future, those who fail to do this, risk extinction. Who would have imagined 10 years ago that one of the largest ‘hotels’ around would be a company that doesn’t actually own the rooms they let or that one of the largest taxi services around doesn’t own any of the cars its passengers use.

In this era of disruption, where the status quo is constantly being challenged and replaced, it’s those who innovate and buck the trend, not follow it, who will prosper.

Curiosity fuels the fire

Crucial to the creative-innovate process is curiosity. As Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” This is because curiosity makes you question things - specifically, things like the norm, and then, challenge it.

Curiosity also builds knowledge. Knowledge combined with curiosity, leads to more ideas, patterns and combinations of solutions that then mingle to create new and innovative processes, products or services.

Invest in rest

So what can companies do? Importantly, as with the Google example above, allow time for their employees to seek their passion and unleash their inner genius at work. As we’ve touched on before, creativity is a fundamental human trait that we all possess. We are all capable of coming up with new ideas and solve problems.

Companies who invest in creative empowerment have seen that the cost more than pays for itself in terms of trust building, collaboration, creative output and internal strategy alignment.

 Generating ideas on a constant basis

Companies can be creative and innovative no matter what their expertise, product or service. Those business leaders who, through their own creative structuring, are able to empower creativity will be the ones to stay ahead of a changing marketplace and their competition. Why? Because they will be the first to find a solution.

The new model is here and the change is now. The most successful companies create a structure where employees can carve out time to generate ideas on a constant basis. In fact, the most creative and innovative companies distance themselves from the competition rather than compete with them.

By Kay Kayachith 

Kay is a Senior Consultant with Radley Yeldar helping clients to tell their stories in print and online through strategic advice, audience-led insights and tailored communications. 

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