Thursday, June 6, 2013

Use Vacation to Fuel Innovation

Looking for more innovation from your team? Upcoming summer vacations can help.

Or more specifically, the days immediately following vacation. Brain research indicates that we're more capable of having an "aha moment" after a period of mental rest, like time spent away from the office.

What's on your work calendar when you get back from a break? Lots of catch-up time is the most common answer. Checking in on what you missed while you were away, taking the baton from whoever was covering during your absence, and hitting the ground running. This is no different for your team.  Their first priority is getting back up to speed to re-enter the fray.

David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, says this is a waste of a clear mind.

In his book, "Your Brain at Work", he shares research by Stellan Ohisson that explores how we need to stop thinking about a problem one way before a new solution can emerge. "When facing a new problem, people apply strategies that worked in prior experiences." "But as long as your prior approach has the highest level of activation, you will get more refined variations of the same approach but nothing genuinely new comes to the fore."

Genuinely New = Innovation

Your brain is hot wired for innovation after a break. 

What if the first day back from vacation wasn't used to get back up to speed. What if day one was devoted instead to innovation. We're back at work, but not the work of our day-to-day tasks and short term projects. Instead, we're at work creating the future, thinking big, finding new solutions. With the right planning and teamwork, the emails can wait until day two, even day three.

You're the leader, you could make this a part of your team's norm. Talk about it, plan it, schedule it, try it, measure it, and talk about it some more. But get moving - vacations are right around the corner.

Here's to your team's Summer of Innovation.  

You can read more about David's recommendations about using a fresh mind to tackle big challenges in his  blog post "Back From A Vacation? Don't Waste Your Clear Mind."on Psychology Today.

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