In a previous post, Give Me a Break … Because Downtime at Work Is Highly Productive, I wrote that taking regular breaks at work helps make you more productive and boosts your energy. Did you know regular breaks also help make you more creative and innovative?
Taking a break and doing something else gives your brain a chance to relax. It is in these moments that the brain starts to make unrelated connections, when those moments of “Ah-Ha,” of inspiration, of genius happen. Inspiration often seems to come out of nowhere, as if an invisible spirit whispered into your ear, which is appropriate because the etymology of the word inspiration comes from Middle English, meaning divine guidance.
Here are two of my favorite examples of “Ah-Ha” moments:
- Archimedes created the principles of density and buoyancy while watching the water as he stepping into a bath. He saw the water overflow as he immersed himself. He made the connection of the amount of water displaced and the density of the object submerging. The legend goes that he was so excited, he ran naked outside yelling, “Eureka!”
- Harry Potter was born during a long, boring train ride from Manchester to London King’s Cross. The entire story of the boy wizard suddenly popped into J.K. Rowling’s mind as she looked out the train window. When she arrived home, she began to write the fantasy series that would eventually sell more than 500 million copies worldwide, making them the best-selling book series in history.
Even the greatest innovative companies have acknowledged the importance of breaks and doing something unrelated to current job responsibilities. 3M has a “15 percent time” program that allows employees to use 15% of their paid time to work on new ideas outside of their main responsibilities. Many of the company’s best-selling product are born from this program.
It is practically a requirement for any top tech company to have a game room with ping-pong and foosball tables, and most large corporations now have walking paths for employees to get outside, away from the problems sitting on the desk. Promoting creativity has become very important to companies that want to remain at the top in innovation, and they recognize that regular breaks are key for employees to grasp moments of genius.
Next time you are feeling pressure to come up with an innovative solution or to create something awe inspiring, maybe you need a fifteen-minute break outside to let the muses whisper inspiration in your ear.