Why a Summer Vacation Might Lead to Your Next Business Breakthrough
But what if leaving your company for a while actually made the business stronger? If getting away made you a more effective a leader when you got back?
Then a vacation wouldn't be a luxury, it would be a necessity.
Americans have long celebrated the workaholic, who's always available for a conference call or breakfast meeting or late-night email session. Even when we're technically on vacation, we cart our cellphones and laptops along. But if you want your company to grow, or diversify, or simply get out of a rut, you have to get creative -- and that doesn't happen when you're following the same old routines.
Recent research on creativity has found that people think most freely when they escape from their everyday habits. The crucial thing to remember is that creativity isn't just for artists or poets; it applies just as equally to solving complex business problems. Learn to think creatively and you have an edge in everything from product development to vendor negotiations to marketing plans.
In his book Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer offers case studies of artists and scientists who had dramatic breakthroughs, looking for common threads between their experiences. One of his underlying points is that creativity isn't simply a personality trait certain people have and others don't; it's a skill that can be learned and honed.
One of the book's most important insights is that inspiration comes when we aren't necessarily looking for it. Focusing attention on a problem is good up to a point, as your brain sorts through all the relevant details and hurdles. But then you have to give it up to your subconscious. Activities that literally get you away from your desk -- such as a walk or a long shower -- are more effective than an hours-long, in-office brainstorming session.
Variety also enhances creative connections. If you follow the exact same route to work every day, the exact same office routine and the exact same evening wind-down, you'll follow the exact same patterns of thinking. Expose yourself to new people, unfamiliar locations and unexpected conversations, however, and you're giving your brain lots of new input to work with.
In other words: Taking a vacation from your business can inspire great ideas about that business.