Try the ‘break’ in breakthrough

Life is busy and getting busier. The global economic crisis has added urgency to calls for more creativity and innovation yet there’s little time to muse, to reflect, to shoot the breeze when you’re worried about your job, your mortgage, the survival of your company. The creative process, though, can’t be hurried. The brain will work exactly as it’s wired to, and that means a necessary focus on reflection, meditation, and the incubation of ideas. Orna Ross, who blogs about creative intelligence, quotes composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: ”When I am… completely myself, entirely alone and of good cheer — say, travelling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not; nor can I force them.” Tony Schwartz, the author of Be Excellent at Anything, says there’s strong agreement among researchers about the predictable stages of creative thinking: saturation, incubation, illumination and verification. Incubation – when we walk away from a problem because we can’t seem to solve it – is often sacrificed under time pressure, yet it’s critical to the process. “Ultimately, the highest creativity depends on making frequent waves – learning to engage the whole brain by moving flexibly and intentionally between the right and left hemisphere, activity and rest, effort and letting go,” Schwartz writes. Creativity author Matthew May couldn’t agree more. He has written extensively about the creative process and practises what he preaches. One of his “Laws of subtraction” is that ‘break ‘ is an important part of any breakthrough. “I’m doing a bit of all three this Thanksgiving week, and taking the family on nice little getaway,” he writes in his latest blog post. “It’ll give me time to decompress, and to reflect. I tend to ask myself a series of questions aligned to the basic phases of any meaningful change…and meaningful change is a constant pursuit.”

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