Does Anyone Listen To My Ideas?

2 min read
23 July 2011

Nelson Mandela turned 93 years of age a few days ago in South Africa and 12 million school kids sang “Happy Birthday” early in the morning on that day. In the meantime, a colleague of mine shows me one of his famous quotes: “As a leader, I have always endeavored to listen to what each an every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion.”

This made me reflect on Mandela’s leadership traits and the things he intuitively did to get along with others. He certainly knew how to tap into someone’s creative thinking probably without knowing how motivated our brains get when we are able to articulate our thoughts.

A short time ago, while running some focus groups, a manager said to me “I would feel better if people would listen to my ideas”.

Such a short statement describes what actually happens to people when they create something and they can express it.

Being creative brings novelty and the brain likes it. It comes with extra doses of dopamine, called the chemical of desire. In today’s workplace creativity makes the difference between companies that get ahead and those who don’t.

Understanding how to foster moments of insight is the basis for getting ahead and differentiating from competitors.

Mark Jung-Beeman (2008), an expert in the topic of insights, says that:

“60% of people solve problems through an insight experience. An insight comes from nowhere, it is sudden and surprising.”

It is like a quantum leap of creativity.

For this to happen, the exchanges of electrical impulses need to go from beta to alpha. Alpha waves manifest when we relax, when we take our mind off our busy moments.

Alpha waves have been measured taking place 1.5 seconds before a moment of insight. In these moments there is a huge activity of gamma waves, the fastest waves our brain experience. This tell us that to have a creative moment we need to be able to relax first, that is why, going for a walk, having a shower or taking a ferry ride can be so stimulating.

Helping staff to take time out is actually a good investment for the business, they feel reenergized and in those free moments of unconscious processing, is when companies could generate the gems of “outside the square” thinking.

As Hugh MacLeod (MacLeod, 2009), a speaker on creativity says,

“Good ideas alter the equilibrium of power in relationships. That is why every person with a new idea faces resistance and people stop listening.”

Involving everyone and asking them to be creative and take the time for it, activates the brain in a way totally different to the problem solving methodology used by most people within the corporate environment.

While talking about creative thinking with a friend of mine, who is an actor, writer, director and also a business consultant, he made a very clear point about the way organisations look at creativity. In the arts industry, it is accepted that everyone has a license to be creative. Creativity is not questioned at all.

I believe that in business there is a need to reframe this concept. Creative thinking does not have anything to do with painting a picture, writing a book or a song.

Everyone can be creative in their own right. By understanding what triggers these aha! moments the levels of engagement, innovation and outcomes can certainly benefit the people involved and their organizations.

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