Rethinking Daydreaming: Why A Wandering Mind Benefits Business

StrategyDriven Innovation Article |Creative Thinking|Rethinking Daydreaming: Why A Wandering Mind Benefits BusinessWhere does an idea come from? It’s a debatable question, and one that likely invokes an image of classic cartoons and lightbulbs above heads. In real life, those “eureka!” moments most commonly crop up at unexpected times; you might be in the shower, or taking the garbage out, when suddenly the solution to a problem you’ve been working so desperately to solve, freely presents itself – and you weren’t even thinking about it! This is no modern phenomenon, either. We all know the iconic story of Sir Isaac Newton and the proverbial apple which hit him on the head at just the right moment, so that alas, the beginnings of his theory on gravity was born. What you might not know, however, is that other such instances of lightning strikes of inspiration are documented throughout the history books and span well into the present day. One thing connects these incredible moments of realisation: daydreaming.

In our productivity-obsessed world, “daydreaming” is not a popular concept. After all, who has time to sit with their feet up, lost to the world, while notifications overflow their many digital devices? Our modern culture sees daydreaming as either a luxury or just plain laziness – but in reality, focused daydreaming is a powerful tool of ideation that businesses cannot afford to overlook. If the mind is a machine, daydreaming is the oil that keeps the cogs moving. From writer’s block, to tricky problems, trying to force ideas only tightens everything up; hence pushing forward becomes impossible. Businesses that welcome daydreaming see the value in letting employees get up from their desk so they can spend some time going for a wander or relaxing in a new environment. This space to breathe will be far more effective in producing top ideas and creative solutions to problems than getting someone to force it out through hard work ever could be.

To harness the power of focused daydreaming, you have to make it practical. As nice as looking out the window thinking about dinner might be, it’s unlikely to produce any ground-breaking ideas. Perhaps you’re wondering how then, on occasion, good ideas come to you at random times? The answer lies in the separation of the conscious and unconscious brain. While you’re thinking of other things, your subconscious keeps ticking over in the background. This is where goal-oriented thinking comes in; for daydreaming to be productive, it is key you marry the goals of your two distinct minds. Fuel your brain by doing your homework. Spend some time gathering and processing all the relevant information – remember, you don’t have to do anything with it just yet, you just need to make sure you have good knowledge of all the relevant resources. With your mind full of information, switch off and do something else for 30 to 60 minutes. Have a coffee, go for a walk, doodle, listen to music – whatever it is that suits you, totally remove yourself from the problem for that block of time. When you come back, you’ll likely find that fresh ideas and solutions are suddenly available to you – and if they’re not, try the process again. Take breaks, breathe; the lower the pressure, the more likely you are to actually discover the answer you’re searching for.

For the remaining daydream skeptics, just take a look at some of the world’s most prominent geniuses and artists. Einstein credits daydreaming – or what he called his ‘thought experiments’ – with some of his greatest achievements, having apparently come up with his theory of relativity whilst imagining the journey he’d take sitting on a beam of light. The composer Mozart would daydream about music while on walks through the tranquil countryside, allowing the sounds of nature to become the foundation of his later compositions. Thomas Edison had an unusual technique wherein he’d hold ball bearings whilst relaxing, as he began to fall asleep, he’d drop the balls thus waking himself up so he could note down any ideas that came to him. The list of daydream advocates is long and embellished with innovators, but there is only one way you can prove the power of daydreaming in business to yourself and colleagues: that is to try it. So wise up, walk away, and discover what new and inventive solutions come to you whilst thinking of other things – so you can finally achieve that “Eureka!” moment.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Chris GriffithsChris Griffiths, author of The Creative Thinking Handbook: Your Step-By-Step Guide To Problem Solving In Business, is founder and CEO of OpenGenius. Griffiths has helped thousands of people worldwide drive business growth using highly practical innovation processes, including teams and individuals from Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies, the United Nations, governments, the European Commission and Nobel Laureates. He is a pioneer in combining creative thinking strategies with technology to enhance productivity and is behind the iMindMap and DropTask apps, now utilized by over two million people worldwide.

How Sustainable Innovation is Changing the Face of Business

StrategyDriven Innovation Article | How Sustainable Innovation is Changing the Face of Business | Sustainable InnovationThe climate crisis has been going on for decades, but the issue has only become a contentious one in the last few years due to huge public backlash against companies and governments alike. There is no room for debate on the issue, either. A contentious study has estimated that we have wiped out 60% of wildlife since 1970. Over 200,000 acres of rainforest are burned every day, plastics have become so pervasive they now exist in every fish tested, and in turn in our own digestive systems.

The earth overshoot day, which documents how many resources the earth can resupply in a given year, is getting shorter. In 2018, it was August 1st. In 1970, it was January 1st, meaning that in less than 50 years we went from using resources that could be replenished, to requiring 1.7 Earths to sustain our consumption.

Businesses in all industries must take note and must take action, and with these top innovations leading the way the future is indeed looking brighter.

The Rise of Sustainable Innovation

Sustainable innovation has arisen for two main reasons:

Public Awareness

In some cases referred to as the “Attenborough Effect,” the public is now massively aware of how their consumption is affecting the planet. After the airing of Blue Planet, a huge outcry over single-use plastics was resounded throughout the world. To date, it is estimated that there has been a 53% reduction of single-use plastics, and many countries around the world have banned or limited the use of plastic for disposable purposes.

Environmental Need

The environment can simply not handle it. Without change companies will die out and so too will entire communities.

Top Sustainable Innovations to Be Aware Of

That is why all businesses must be aware of the sustainable innovations occurring around the world. That way you can both partner with the right companies that are leading the way to a greener future, and get an idea of what you can personally do for the planet with your own company. Balancing the environment and profits can be a challenge, but when you take in the fact that over-consumption might put you entirely out of business, you have no choice.

Innovative Materials Changing Fashion

Fashion is a massive industry with many subsects, such as accessories, shoes, and handbags. The practice has been so damaging to the environment that entire lakes have disappeared, thousands have died, millions are underpaid or work in forced labor conditions, rivers run bright with chemical dyes, and much more.

Fashion is disastrous for the environment, right down to the cotton production that fuels the industry. That is why many innovative textiles are coming onto the scene that aims to use more ecologically friendly plants or waste.

1. Hemp

Hemp is a very durable material that looks and feels similar to linen, but is much easier to produce and less demanding on the environment.

2. Nettle

Stinging nettles are often considered to be pests, but nettle is enjoying a reemergence as a popular textile. People have been using it to create a durable fabric for over 2000 years, and unlike hemp can legally be grown around the world.

3. Ground Coffee

Used coffee grounds are often considered to be a waste product, but with recent innovations in Taiwan, coffee grounds are now turning into fibers. They are created with a polymer, and then spun into a yarn.

4. Pineapple Fabric

The vegan, waste-friendly alternative to leather is made from pineapple. Other innovations have also produced great results with mushrooms. Pineapple, however, has been tested and is very durable.

Circular Economy Innovation

The circular economy is essentially a system that reuses waste rather than sending anything to be recycled or to fill up a landfill. Plastic bottles, for example, can be recycled, but as their quality degrades they would not qualify as a circular item. On the other hand using coffee grounds to make fabric, which then has another life cycle of its own that can decompose safely or be remade into new fabric, is.

Innovations in Agriculture

The issue of agriculture is a big one. How do we realistically intend to feed 9 billion people and growing? We will need to adopt new practices that push farming away from the countryside (and far away from deforestation) and instead:

5. Underground Production

Underground production will use LED lights and unused urban areas like subway tunnels to produce food. Though this is not enough to feed a city, it is certainly a good start. What needs to be pushed further is the adoption of personal gardens in cities, from vertical gardens to balcony gardens.

6. Power of AI

Using sensors, AI, and machine learning agriculture should theoretically be able to optimize production and reduce water consumption and pesticide use.

7. Use of LED

LED is paving the way for increased crop growth rate, allowing more to be produced in a single crop yielding. It will be instrumental in urban farming and can help reduce the amount of land that will need to be cleared for agriculture in the future. You can read more here.

Reusing Waste to Build Our Cities

Though not a perfect solution, many are attempting to give plastic a new home in an industrial building. Low-cost homes are being made out of plastic bottles and other building materials, roads are being made out of single-use plastics, and even fabrics are being created out of recycled plastic (different than polyester). Using plastic like this is not a complete solution, but it does give more direction on how to reuse these indestructible materials.

Recapturing Water

Water consumption needs to be reduced dramatically, which is why water recycling is paramount for sustainable innovation. Capturing water already used in production and reusing it again and again is the best way to limit the amount of fresh water taken from the environment.

Use of Sustainable Energy

Wind farms are now more cost effective to build than a coal plant for the first time in history, but to truly rely on sustainable energy more innovative methods will need to be produced. Companies and individuals alike will then need to actively choose to use sustainable energy producers to further incentivize dirty power companies to go green.

Your Company Is A Well Of Ideas – Stop Poisoning It

StrategyDriven Innovation Article | Your Company Is A Well Of Ideas – Stop Poisoning It | Innovation For The FatiguedI work with creativity and innovation in companies, and I’m frustrated. There are many reasons for this, with my famous impatience being near the top of the list, but one things stands above the rest. This is the insistence of companies and CEOs that their organizations lack ideas. I hear this over and over again, yet it is never true. Not in their organizations, and not in yours.

The fact of the matter is, I’ve never met an organization that lacks ideas. Not one, and I’ve worked with some of the most backwards bureaucracies in the world, and with innovation in North Korea to boot. Be it a Fortune 50 corporation, or a small, local company, the same holds. They all claim they have a problem with generating enough ideas, and they’re all wrong. They already have all the ideas they could even need, and so do you.

You see, the problem is never idea generation. Ever. I can teach a monkey to run a decent idea generation workshop, and although it would make people all creative and stuff, it wouldn’t impact your bottom line in the slightest. Because it isn’t more ideas you need, it’s not killing the ones you already have. In my research, I’ve found a myriad of ways through which companies kill ideas. Bad processes is one, a lack of leadership is another, but the number one idea killer in the world is one that gets little attention – not having a culture in which ideas can take root, but which kills them through not caring.

This can play out in a number of ways. It might be that an eager young employee suggests a new way of working, but only elicits yawns in response. It might be the way in which people who aren’t seen as “innovators” get marginalized and feel that their ideas are not listened to. It might be a lack of psychological safety, where the company is filled to the brim with ideas, but where no-one dares give voice to them. In all these cases, a toxic innovation culture has effectively killed innovation before it even has had the chance to present its first, weak saplings.

What leaders need to do is not just to demand people innovate, or encourage people to “think outside of the box” (a phrase I hate with burning passion). The first task of the innovation leader is to ensure that the culture into which ideas might come is fertile ground for them, rather than a place where only the few get listened to and where ideas are more likely to get shrugged or yawned at than engaged with. You might already have a well of ideas, but if the water is poisoned, it won’t help you a whit.

So before you have your next creativity workshop or innovation initiative, make sure you’ve audited your culture for the things ideas need to flourish. Is it respectful, to ideas and people, and is the conversation civil? Does it exhibit psychological safety, and encourage diverse ideas and conversations? Is it inclusive or exclusive – does everyone get invited to play? Is your culture one of generosity, of give and take, or is it every person and idea for themselves? Unless you are prepared to reflect over such things, it rarely matters what kind of innovation management you have in place, and all those innovation consultants will be for naught. For just like culture might eat strategy for breakfast, it can have a ravenous appetite for ideas, killing them outright at the very first moment they come out of hiding.

So don’t complain about how your company, or your team, lacks ideas. It doesn’t. It never did. Complain about the culture that kills your ideas before they come to fruition, and then start thinking about what you might do to change the situation. Make sure people stop poisoning the well, and you’ll never go without ideas again. You might get a nicer, more civil organization to boot.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Alf Rehn | Innovation for the FatiguedAlf Rehn, author of Innovation for the Fatigued: How to Build a Culture of Deep Creativity, is recognized as a global thought-leader in the field of innovation and creativity. Rehn is Professor of Innovation, Design, and Management at the University of Southern Denmark, sits on numerous boards of directors, is a bestselling author, and serves as a strategic advisor for hot new startups to Fortune 500 companies.

For more information, please visit KoganPage.

News Flash: Innovation Is No Longer Just a Specialist’s Job. Now Here’s How to Involve Your Whole Workforce Instead

StrategyDriven Innovation ArticleThe classic method of segregating innovation to a single department, or to a process led by specialists, just isn’t fast enough any longer. What’s needed is a culture in which innovation is the mission of everyone, everywhere, every day. What’s not understood is how to do it.

Most innovation methods don’t actually result in innovative solutions. Research finds that just 5 to 15 percent of innovations are successful at large companies. Most business leaders would have greater odds of success if they went to a Las Vegas casino and gambled their innovation investment on one big bet. But companies pursuing innovation as their core business strategy realize 50 to 100 percent higher profit margins than those who pursue low cost, high quality and fast delivery strategies, or simply doing whatever the customer says.

Yet now, with Innovation Engineering – a data-driven, reliable system for creating fresh ideas and successfully turning them into reality – companies can transform innovation from a random act to a reliable science. Innovation Engineering is validated in real-world practice, and has been the launch pad for more than $16 billion in growth and system improvement projects.

Every existing innovation program preaches the importance of embracing a childlike, creative spirit. This works for the 15 percent of the work population who have a right brain creative thinking style. But it doesn’t work for the 85 percent with a logical left-brain thinking style. And without the 85 percent who are logical, there’s virtually no chance a meaningfully unique innovation will become reality. Left brainers are critical to accomplishing the engineering, finance, production and operational work that’s required to make meaningful change happen.

Innovation Engineering methods and tools are designed to engage both left and right brain thinkers. Projects are focused with clear, motivating strategic missions that speak to both project vision and boundaries. The result is an unleashing of a culture of “whole brain” thinking.

The following are some of the essential practices of Innovation Engineering:

1. Create systems that enable instead of control. The word “system,” especially in connection with innovation, creates a vision of being controlled, constrained and restricted. That’s not the purpose of Innovation Engineering. It’s a system designed to enable innovation by everyone. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a renowned systems specialist, observed: “Ninety-four percent of problems are caused by the system — 6 percent by the workers.” In fact, 99 percent of companies have no system for innovation. Often, leaders don’t believe the people in their organization can innovate, or they blame their people for a lack of innovation. In fact, the problem lies in their lack of an embedded innovation system. A new mindset is needed to embrace the discovery of ideas, methods and tools for working smarter.

2. Generate a multitude of ideas to end up a big idea. Invite teams of workers to free-associate around a problem or challenge. The more ideas you create, the more big ideas you end up with. For example, a business selling Christmas trees, who needed to find a profitable way to dispose of leftover trees, generated a multitude of ideas, such as pine needle tea and pine oil extract. The notion of creating great ideas by first creating lots of unrealistic ones is a viable approach to innovation.

3. Discover and develop “meaningfully unique” innovation. Innovation Engineering’s definition of innovation is precise: meaningful, in that it has an obvious value to the customer – that is, customers would willingly give up their existing behaviors for it; and unique, in that it’s genuinely original. Often it offers a quantifiable advantage that you can put a number on that shows how much better it is versus the existing alternative.

4. Analyze potential “death threats.” Key issues that could keep an idea from succeeding, in Innovation Engineering termed death threats, must be resolved through disciplined systems of discovery, instead of the old “declare and defend” approach. The term denotes the emotional intensity that matches a fear of unknowns inherent in innovation. It enables honest conversations about critical issues without igniting defensiveness. Instead of saying, “Your idea can’t work,” others are taught to say, “There could be a death threat with this idea.” Defining a challenge (such as a regulatory barrier) as a hypothetical concern moves it to the less confrontational third person. Death threats are examined by creating “What if?” hypotheses and experiments.

5. Add define and discover phases before the classic develop and deliver phases. To enable speed and success with innovation projects, include disciplined front-end phases to get clarity on the entire idea before entering the “develop” stage. Innovation Engineering designers have found that adding these phases increases development success by up to 250 percent. Two big decision points occur before develop and deliver where bulk of the investment (60% and 30%) is made. The define stage involves laying out the entire idea, as opposed to a sequential system of hand-offs from marking to R&D to production and sales. The discover stage involves problem-solving to reduce uncertainty and address the project’s death threats.

6. Know that patent owners reap the rewards. Patent filings in the U.S. have grown exponentially. While ideas alone aren’t patentable, the methods or the proofs of innovative ideas are. The importance of technology ownership is significant. The U.S. Patent Office found that, on average, wages are 42 percent higher for those employees who work in intellectual property intensive industries versus non-intellectual property intensive industries. Filing of provisional patents now take hours, not weeks, and doing so is a no-brainer.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert ContributorDoug Hall is an inventor, researcher, educator and craft whiskey maker. He is founder of the Eureka! Ranch, Innovation Engineering Institute and Brain Brew Custom Whisk(e)y. He’s been named one of America’s top innovation experts by Inc. magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Dateline NBC, CNBC, CIO Magazine and the CBC. His new book, Driving Eureka! Problem Solving with Data Driven Methods & the Innovation Engineering System (Clerisy Press,Oct. 16, 2018) describes how to transform innovation from random acts to a reliable science. Learn more at doughall.com.

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