Encourage Creative Thinking By Paying Employees To Walk Their Dogs. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Chris Thomason, author of ‘Freaky Thinking; Thinking that Delivers a striking difference. Chris will discuss how activities like dog walking can enhance creative thinking and problem-solving skills in both personal and professional life. We commonly come up with great ideas while taking a shower, driving, or walking our dogs. Interestingly, there is a scientific explanation behind this phenomenon that we should utilise.
Encourage Creative Thinking By Paying Employees To Walk Their Dogs
What if you could solve any problem you pose yourself by taking your dog for a walk? How might this understanding change your working day?
Where Are You When You Get Your Best Ideas?
I’ve asked many people where they are—and what they’re doing—when they get their best ideas. Typical responses are: in the shower; while driving the car; at the gym, or walking the dog. But why would this diverse mix of places be our most creative times? Is it based on personality types or something else?
The Value Of Undemanding Activities
In 2012, the University of California asked research participants to perform a creative task to come up with unusual uses for everyday items. Once completed, the participants repeated the test and measured the performance change between the two tests. However, the participants were split into four groups:
- Group 1 had no gap between the two tests.
- Group 2 was told to sit and relax for 12 minutes between the tests.
- Group 3 had to look at changing numbers on a screen for 12 minutes and to say whether the last number had been odd or even (a DEMANDING task).
- Group 4 had to look at changing numbers on a screen for 12 minutes and say whether the current number was odd or even (an UNDEMANDING task).
The first two groups performed worse in the second test, while Group 3 did marginally better in the second test. However, Group 4 (which was given the undemanding task) surprisingly performed over 40% better in the second test.
The tasks where people say they get their best ideas can be considered undemanding activities. With the driving example, cruising along a motorway that’s not busy, or driving a quiet country road, may be deemed as undemanding driving where your mind has time to think. However, driving in a busy city centre where you must watch for traffic lights, cyclists, bus lanes, and pedestrians would be demanding—and therefore not so good for thinking.
You may need some undemanding activity in the background to do your best thinking, such as walking the dog.
Repetition And Routine
Another aspect of activities where creative thinking is best performed is that they are often part of your daily routine or are repetitive. You’re doing the same thing in the same place and often in the same order. This is beneficial, as it tends to occupy part of your mind rather than distract it.
For example, imagine taking your dog for a walk in a new city instead of walking on your usual route. In the new environment, observing all the different things around you will distract you—which isn’t conducive to good thinking. However, when you’re in a familiar environment, the things you see act to occupy your mind but not distract it.
Group 2 participants should have succeeded in the University of California research. However, when your mind has nothing to occupy it, it becomes distracted from within by your thoughts. Have you ever tried thinking hard about a topic while sitting down, only to find your mind wandering? When no undemanding task is occupying part of your mind, your spare mental capacity occupies itself by constantly wandering off-topic.
Use Killer Questions
You may not recognise this, but your ideas answer questions you’ve posed to yourself or someone else has asked of you. Either way, they are important questions that you haven’t been able to answer immediately, which have been percolating in your subconscious.
These important questions form the purpose for your thinking—they are your Killer Questions. Questions that, when answered well, will make a significant beneficial difference to your issue. These questions require bold and powerful answers, requiring you to be at your most creative thinking. The nature of the question helps define the scale of the answer required. And any Killer Question you pose will, by default, form a grand purpose for your thinking.
Killer Questions aren’t like quiz questions with a single right answer – they have many potential answers. And you can keep thinking until you find the optimal answer, so you address the question to the best of your abilities.
But a good Killer Question excites and interests you, so you feel you want to try to answer it. It’s also one where you don’t know the answer straightaway, but you feel there must be an answer within your grasp if you apply enough brain power. And you put this brain power onto it during your best thinking times – when you are performing your undemanding tasks.
What To Take With You
To help you effectively think, write your Killer Question on paper. Writing it down ensures that your question is fixed so your mind doesn’t flex it to suit your thinking.
Your thinking must always adapt to suit your question – not vice versa. This helps keep your mind focused on the topic at hand. You can take several Killer Questions with you that cover different topics, so you spend time thinking about each of your topics in turn. But only focus on one specific question at a time, as this helps your mind address that question with excellent answers.
You won’t be able to remember all your ideas while you’re out, so I recommend buying a simple digital voice recorder to capture all your thinking. They are cheap and readily available. An alternative is to use a smartphone voice recording app. However, a phone can distract your thinking – so be warned.
The Personal Benefits
Besides the benefits of getting ideas that address your Killer Question, performing an undemanding activity gets you away from your desk. You are exercising, out in nature and fresh air. If you’re a hybrid worker, sometimes you get trapped at your home office, and this is a chance to break away from your desk and still be doing work.
Hybrid working isn’t about getting your work-life balance right. It’s about finding better ways for your work-life integration. And this thinking time may become the most valuable part of your working day, especially as it’s doing something you would have been doing anyway, such as exercising or walking your dog.
The Best For Both Worlds
For employees, taking thinking work with them on their morning exercise routine permits them to take this time off from their regular working hours, like having a long lunch break. And thinking deeply about an interesting topic can be quite stimulating and mentally satisfying. So, it doesn’t detract from your activity, and the opposite may be potentially true. For employers, allowing better quality thinking time for employees delivers better ideas. Which, in turn, delivers better results and outcomes.
It turns out that Rover the Dog may be one of the best thinking stimulators in your business. And you don’t even have to put them on the payroll!
I hope you enjoyed that.
About The Author
Chris Thomason is the author of Freaky Thinking, a process that helps individuals in organisations to think differently about important topics and issues. Chris’s clients include UPS, Canon, O2, Vodafone, Roche Pharmaceuticals, Touchnote, Lloyds Bank, Toyota, HSBC, Scottish Widows, South African Airways, American Express, and many more.