“A distraction may provide the break you need to disengage from a fixation on an ineffective solution.” Shelley H. Carson, Harvard University researcher and psychologist
The struggle to maintain a positive balance between a successful career and life at home while trying to be a superstar in both worlds is commonplace. Our last article discussed when it is time to stop having ideas and to say no to innovation. Now, let’s take that concept one step further – can taking the time for an enjoyable hobby or a relaxing vacation actually lead to increased innovation and creativity in the workplace?
A variety of inventions, some society-changing, others more for convenience, show us that there is a likely connection between work-life balance and our ability to generate inventive and inspired ideas that promote career and corporate success. For example, 3M employee Arthur Fry conceived the idea for the Post-it Note while trying to figure out a way to hold bookmarks in his hymnal while singing in the church choir back in 1974. Now, Post-it Notes are sold in over 100 countries. Alexander Fleming’s two week vacation in 1928 ultimately led to his discovery of Penicillin after he returned to find a certain type of mold inhibited the growth of bacteria he accidentally left smeared in a petri dish before he departed. In the 1950s, a Swiss gentleman named George de Mestral was out enjoying a walk through the country. After his walk, he noticed that dozens of cockleburs had attached themselves to his pant legs during the walk. He invented Velcro after studying how the cockleburs clung to his clothing.
Scientists have also studied the phenomenon of why great ideas occur while in the shower or while engaged in some other relaxing or enjoyable activity. Dr. Alice W. Flaherty, a physician and neuroscientist with degrees from Harvard and M.I.T., has researched the science behind creativity. Studies have shown that when increased dopamine levels (the “feel good” neurotransmitter released during pleasurable activities) combine with distraction our brains are in the best position to bestow more inventive ideas.
A popular fortune cookie saying proclaims, “There is more to balance than not falling over.” More and more companies are engaging in a well-rounded approach to employee well being by implementing policies promoting work-life balance. HCW emphasizes this well-rounded approach through a culture of flexibility and periodic activities to foster employee creativity and personal relationships. This type of corporate mindset will not only keep employees from falling over, but may increase the stability of an organization’s human capital and bolster innovation within the workplace. Have you had an “Aha!” moment while enjoying a hobby or vacation? How do your company’s policies around work-life balance help you to innovate while on the job?