Extreme Downtime

If you have the opportunity, a useful experiment is to ask some high performers a couple of questions. 

  1. Do good ideas come to you when you're deeply engaged in work or when you're totally relaxed and doing something else?
  2. Do you actively (or inactively) use engagement and relaxation as ideation strategies? If not, why not?

The idea of generating new ideas when totally engaged is normal and to be expected, after all, you're focused intently on solving the problem at hand. However, using relaxing environments to increase ideation is only becoming more and more of a trend. Big companies know this. If you want some examples, think of all the organisations that are now installing pool tables, table tennis, common rooms, bars and even music rooms. This is a subtle (and let's be honest) nice way of helping employees relax and generate new ideas while keeping them happy. 

If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.
— Albert Einstein

But it's really hard to do, or is it just me? The idea of being productive and perhaps even more efficient is so totally counterintuitive that it doesn't sit well. I've even heard people give some labels like 'strategic innovation' to make it sound better. And yes, I am serious... strategic innovation referring to actively doing nothing! 

Take charge of your schedule. Make time for reflection and relaxation.
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Then you have Unconscious thought theoryThis is the theory that the unconscious mind is capable of performing tasks outside of one's awareness. Furthermore, it claims that unconscious thought is better at solving complex tasks, where there are many variables, compared to conscious thought, but is outperformed by conscious thought in tasks with fewer variables. 

We can't spend all our time not doing anything in a guise of 'strategic innovation', but equally, it seems we shouldn't spend all of our time in complete conscious focus on tasks. For me, this is one of those concepts that requires thought and balance. Thanks for reading.