Isn't it peculiar how you can sometimes create something new, solve a complex matter or suddenly get really important insights - just like that! Bam! Suddenly it's there - no stress, no hard work, it's just like - playing!
Artists - like authors and painters - often report of incidents that feel like being in a trance or state of meditation while working, losing total control of time and space. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of "Eat, Pray, Love," talks about this in the Ted video "Your Elusive Creative Genius."
In "Eat, Pray, Love" Elizabeth travels to Italy to find herself. Kristine and I also spend as much time as we can in Italy. We haven't been looking at it as a quest to find ourselves, but on one of our first trips - that's exactly what happened!
Let's go back to a creative moment in 2011...
It had been a long day when we finally ended up in the scenic and ancient town of Malcesine by the beautiful Lago di Garda. The view of the sea, picturesque old buildings, and the atmosphere itself made it easy to drift back to former times. But in this backdrop, a light for creating the future was also sparked.
Over a long and lazy lunch and a glass of Italian wine we started talking about how sad it is that so many people do not thrive at work. Why is it that people do not feel that they matter? How come they do not see the important part they play in the bigger picture? We talked about how so many leaders have failed in creating an engaging culture at work. And why is it that most people find strategy really boring, and not see it as a way to understand the purpose of what they are doing and as a map to where they are heading?
The one idea that intrigued both of us was: It MUST be possible to do this differently. It must be possible to work with strategy (and the more 'structural' parts of an organization) in a way that is engaging and that mobilizes people instead of disengaging them. And of course it was.
We just had to engage our creative geniuses - and start creating
When the waiter came to our table, we asked for a pen. We started scribbling. First on the back of the napkin. Then on the tablecloth. (Luckily it was made of paper.) Thoughts, insights and solutions were pouring out, resulting in a visual image of a solution that was crystal clear. Suddenly it was revealed to us, and we saw exactly how this could be done. It all just clicked.
Surprised about the clarity of it all, one of us said, "Hey, someone needs to do something with this."
We looked around, couldn't see anyone except a big and happy Italian family and a few tourists.
Then it dawned on us: "That 'someone' was us." WE had to start working with this, because it was so important.
This was the birth of Brainwells. Which is kind of funny. Because we had never even once been thinking of starting working together. But suddenly it all was there.
Building Brainwells from scratch has been and still is a great journey. But another important thing we realized when looking back to this day at the shore of Lago Di Garda, was that this happened because we let ourselves be creative instead of being in a performing mode.
We didn't try being 'clever and hard-working' to find an idea to build upon. Actually, we didn't look for anything in particular.
We just let our minds wander. We allowed our thoughts to connect beyond where they normally do. We resisted being logical. We dared to think big.
When you are in this state of mind, magic can happen - and for us, that day, it really did.
The creative state vs the performing state.
The opposite of this 'creative state' is the 'performing state.' When you do things because you have to, more than because you want to. Of course, we need those moments too, but don't forget to allow yourself to be in creative mode from time to time.
It might require that you enter a no-stress modus, but we guess you've heard the saying that "Sometimes you need to move slow, to move fast?"
So - now what?
If you are lucky, you work with something that lets you be in the creative stage when you need it. If so, cherish it.
And - honestly - if you find yourself just being a hard worker, performing all the time, it might be time considering doing something else. Kristine worked in this mode too long and for the wrong reasons. The result was a total breakdown.
Read more in her story "Climbing the Corporate Ladder and falling down".
To sum it all up, it is easier to love what you do when you are in your creative sweet spot, rather than when you are just performing your tasks. It's all about balance.
"Choose a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life" (Confucius)
This blog post is written by Kristine Maudal and Even Fossen, founders of Brainwells. Our passion is 'The Human Side of Strategy' and we work relentlessly and passionately with leaders all over the world. With love and care we share parts of the magic here or over at our own blog LeadershipCourageFun. Thanks for being here!
All photos © Brainwells / alphaspirit / Peter Eckert