On Interpretation and Artistry

There is a lot of thinking and repeatable process in re-imagining effective work. Learning how to examine a current process to understand its intent, its current form, and the actors involved. Being able to introduce new information to overcome information saturation. Pulling out your binoculars and seeing the longer view of the industry and its context. Going shopping for inspiration to see how other people and teams are changing and embracing change. These items can be done, achieved, ticked off, completed, scheduled.

But there is also art. The unscriptable a-ha. The hoped-for-and-studied-towards moment of inspiration. That point in the process where everything comes together and you see the vision of the future – however ill-formed, fleeting and momentary. The fog clears and you see what is not there yet.

So here’s the question: what can you do to create the space for the “art”?

1. Immerse then disengage. Give your brain time and space to create the connections – where the unconscious part of your cognitive process makes connections between seemingly unrelated and unconnected ideas.

Allowing this process to happen is why many artists, writers and composers have wrestled with their ideas in the morning, and then gone for a long walk in the afternoon. Immerse and focus. Then disengage and walk. Or swim. Or cycle.

Steve Jobs was legendary for his walks, alone and with other people.

Zig Ziglar talked about how going out for a walk – often with his dogs – would frequently solve his problem.

In my work, I vividly remember the long bike rides when I was writing Collaboration Roadmap. There are sections in that book that would not have been written if it wasn’t for my bike.

2. Be intentional about location and activity. Where do you have your best ideas? Do you know? Many people say they have their best ideas in the shower (and I even know one guy that has a whiteboard next to his shower so he can capture his ideas while in there). While having ideas in your shower is great for solo idea generation, it’s a whole lot more difficult to make that work for group ideation. Apparently the sauna in Finland has become a close equivalent to this in a business group setting, although etiquette enforces separate sauna experiences for men and women.

Although I don’t do it often enough, one of my favourite ideation locations is the local cafe. Being able to sit in the silence and think … with a hot drink and a slab of carrot cake (with cream) … that’s almost perfection in my book.

3. Forget the meeting room. Meeting rooms have their place, and a well-designed and well-appointed meeting room is a great addition to the re-imagining activities of all teams. They are good for the science and repeatable process side, but the art side? Not so much. Find a different place to meet – the local coffee shop is a favourite of many. Or go for a walking meeting (as long as the group knows it can walk in silence and think; it doesn’t have to be a performance).

Somehow, you have to relax enough to let your intuitive and imaginative process be heard above the noise.

Where do you have your best ideas? Do more of that.

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