I’ve known for a long time that if I need to work through a tough challenge, taking a walk is one of the best ways for me to clear my head and get inspired. It came as no surprise when Stanford did some research last year that supported my personal experience. In their study, those who went for a walk produced 2x the number of creative responses to a problem. Furthermore, the research showed that it doesn’t even require getting outside. Walks on a treadmill can boost creativity just as effectively. Now I have justification to convince my husband we need a treadmill.
I think the reason walking works so well for me is that it reduces distractions and gives my brain the freedom to create. When I’m sitting at my desk, I’m generally on a timeline to get something done, but walking takes that pressure off and allows my brain to be open to new ideas. When I get out of the house on a walk, random thoughts come out of nowhere. If I focus on a specific problem when I go on the walk, I get lots of ideas.
I’m not the only one. Jim Smelley shared with us, when he was teaching our Problem Solving course earlier this year, that he takes a walk every Sunday afternoon to specifically focus on a client problem. Now I understand why he comes in to our Monday morning meetings with fresh ideas while the rest of us are still foggy from the weekend! Part of why Thought Ensemble is structured virtually is so that we can give people the freedom to structure their work in the way that helps them go with their energy and maximize inspiration.
What about “team walking”? I’m not sure how scalable it is, but I know that Jim and I have done some of our best work walking together. Much of our book, Reboot, was created while walking the hiking trails at Rancho la Puerta. We got up every morning at 5:45 and started our day with a 2 hour hike up the mountain. We set off with the intention of discussing one of the chapters from the outline we had developed in advance. Within that topic, we allowed ourselves a lot of unstructured thinking that made creativity possible. Our conversations wandered through side trips, sub routines and vague connections. We spent half the time in silence. As you can see from the picture (yes, that’s Jim), sometimes one of us would hike ahead. We came back down the mountain with a ton of new ideas and then, after a hearty breakfast, we sat down to focus on writing down those ideas.
I’ve walked with others in our company too and I love going on walks with my friends. I’m not sure if “team walking” can be scaled beyond a couple people, but it is an interesting idea. Try it and see what you think!