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For ideation, teams tend to opt for off-sites, but despite our best efforts, we cannot keep going to exotic places all the time, for many good reasons, including cost and convenience
For ideation, teams tend to opt for off-sites, but despite our best efforts, we cannot keep going to exotic places all the time, for many good reasons, including cost and convenience

Finding hotspots for ideas

Meeting halls may stifle creativity, but there’s still room in the office for ideation. Try the café, library, gym or create your own nook

Every organization and team constantly searches for new ideas. We need ideas to power growth, delight customers, attract and retain talent, reduce costs, and more. But formal conference rooms, where executives meet most often, are not always the best places to trigger ideas. They often tend to be stiff and hierarchical, and attempts at ideation are frequently waylaid by a rigid agenda, or even by just poor placement of seats.

For ideation, teams tend to opt for off-sites, but despite our best efforts, we cannot keep going to exotic places all the time, for many good reasons, including cost and convenience. What this means is that we have to necessarily look for spaces within our offices, which can nurture the search for new ideas on a regular basis.

The good news is, our offices hold so many hotspots for ideas. The better news is, these spaces are all accessible to us, if we make the effort. Here is a primer on office hotspots, which you can use every time you want to think creatively.

Where light shines

Rooms that have lots of natural ventilation and maximum daylight tend to serve as excellent spaces for ideation. The reason appears to be simple—a natural backdrop, adequate oxygen for our brains, and an immediate environment that supports our overall health and well-being helps our creative thinking process. That’s why some green plants in the room also tend to help.

So, the next time your team wants to brainstorm, choose a room which is well ventilated, and throw open the window blinds to let the daylight in. Then, watch the ideas flow.

Art counts, always

You can create spaces that inspire ideas by adding interesting articles, quotations, paintings, and even a wall for scribbling.

An interesting science, psychogeography, studies the effect of a geographic location on the emotions and behaviours of individuals. If we are seeking a creative space, it urges us to seek environments that inspire us, help us drop our reservations, and thus experience higher moments of our intellect and imagination. An unusual sculpture that holds our attention, a picture that helps us relax, an object that helps our minds drift without getting lost—all these push us to think better and creatively.

Break it up

Coffee and tea breaks in your office canteen or café are a wonderful way to trigger ideas.

Studies have shown that an active break, in the middle of a busy day, helps the brain to process information in a relaxed way, which can often lead to new insights. In addition, I think there is something special about coffee and tea, which stokes our imagination.

That is why ideas for so many new books and films are conceived in a café, over a stimulating cuppa. So, when your mind is saturated with discussion, and desperately needs to make that breakthrough leap, heading to a café or canteen may be the best thing to do.

Thinking corners

We need to develop our own favourite office corners for reflection and creative thinking. Each office has its own nooks and happy, quiet places. For you, this could be a cosy chair in the small office library. Or, it may be a landing on the staircase, overlooking the street. Or a chair at the reception area, where you remain within the buzz of conversation, but undisturbed otherwise. Sometimes, your own workspace can become a thinking corner, with an audio headset to help you concentrate better. If you are fortunate to be in a large corporate campus, then under a nice tree is a good place too.

‘Go take a walk’

One of the best methods of idea generation in offices is to walk and talk, with a couple of members of your team. In an interesting research paper, titled “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking", professors Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz of Stanford University highlight the positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Why does this happen ? Perhaps because walking relaxes suppression of memories, and brings forth ideas from within your mind.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once famously said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking". So when you need ideas, take a walk in the park closest to your office, or a walk around your office block after lunch, while talking at leisure. This also means that the much maligned phrase “Go take a walk" can now assume new and positive dimensions.

Unlocking rhythm

If you have an office gym, try stationary cycling or some other form of light exercise.

If you are sitting in a meeting for long, try light swinging of your legs in a rhythmic fashion. If you have a shower in office, utilize it when you need an idea. For many people, ideas drop into their minds when they are engaged in such rhythmic, routine activities that do not intensely involve the intellect. I have noticed colleagues who doodle meaninglessly during meetings, perhaps for the same reason. Rhythm appears to unlock the mind.

Harish Bhat works with the Tata Group. He gets his best ideas while talking to colleagues informally over a nice cup of coffee.

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