When do you take time to stocktake and reflect? Where do you make space to distill and let the dust settle?
I was speaking at the University of Nottingham’s Ingenuity ’18 conference. Aimed at finding innovative ideas to solve some of the key issues of our time, speakers came thick and fast with challenging ideas. Key notes were followed by group problem solving sessions; lunch was taken on the run; breaks were kept to a minimum. From modern slavery to the gender pay gap to plastic waste, delegates were challenged to use their imagination, creativity and resourcefulness. It was intense and thought-provoking. A sense of urgency and commitment to change pervaded the two days.
Only close to the end, was time carved out for reflection. Like diners served a four-course gourmet meal, delegates had no room for more. They looked tired and ready for rest, their minds metaphorically bloated.
I sent delegates out for a walk through the Jubilee Campus in the crisp winter sun. Light was bouncing between the huge lake and glass covered buildings; distorted reflections danced on the windows and silver birches provided the backdrop to swaying grass in the reed beds. Geese flew low. Snow fell the day after and breath came in with a hit of cold and came out as steam. This was digestion time.
With my limited knowledge of neuro-science, I know that when we calm that ancient part of the brain that holds the amygdala and slow the limbic system which provides a whole smokescreen of emotion, our neo-cortex has more chance of getting on with the creative work of problem solving. Mindfulness and concentrating on the here and now, is a great way of doing this and walking increases the impact even more. Divergent thinking – generating different and many ideas – increases when we walk and the benefit of this continues for some time after we’ve sat back down. The combination of walking and mindfulness produces unexpected results.
At the door, I greeted delegates as they returned. Daisy, well wrapped in scarf and hat, smiled as she came in. “I’ve found a bee!” and together we examined the soft stripy fur of an early woken bumblebee. Daisy, as it happens, is passionate about bees. As well as being named after a flower, she has a tattoo of a bee on her right wrist and the sleepy bee was nuzzling into an image of itself. The strange coincidence ignited a conversation about the environment, germinating the seed of an idea about giving patches of land to children as they start school.
The next day, a delegate sought me out through the Indigo website to say thank you, “It was transformative. I’ve run my own business for fourteen years, I am now in the process of handing it over to pursue a new career. However, during that walk, I realised that I had completely stopped connecting with the world around me. I had been jumping from one situation of crisis management to another, too tired and stressed to connect to anything. It was a very emotional and sobering experience for me, one that I took a great deal from”.
If you have a challenge you are facing in your leadership, a question to consider about your career, or problem in a work relationship that is nagging at you and you want to think innovatively about how you deal with these, you may benefit from working with an Indigo coach. Our creative approaches to coaching help unlock your thinking, provide time for replenishment and help you find those precious moments of self-reflection that lead to committed action and often unexpected results.