How to stay inspired and innovative at work | Fin24

How to stay inspired and innovative at work

Oct 25 2019 17:17
Amanda Visser
vumile msweli

Vumile Msweli, Career coach and CEO of Hesed Consulting. (Photo: Supplied)

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We live in a fast-paced work environment where people can easily feel isolated. But another danger, of “excessive busyness”, is that colleagues stop discussing new ideas with one another because everybody else appears equally busy.

What happens when the result is a drought in creative ideas – often the driving force behind business growth? And how do you break such a drought?

What kills creativity?

A recent article on wellness at the Huffington Post warns that: “Perfectionism and fear of failure often go hand in hand, and they can both keep you from fully engaging with a creative project or even starting it in the first place.”

Fear of failure is not all that is killing creativity – being too pessimistic or trying to think too big can also be contributing to your creative drought.

Rohit Desai, CEO of Awesome Confidence Coaching and registered mentor, says the negativity in the country often spills over into the mind of the business owner or entrepreneur. When this happens, they experience stress and even despair, and their creativity becomes the victim.

“Many lose their fighting spirit or run out of ideas because subconsciously they focus on the negative. It is so easy to fall into the trap because when you meet fellow businessmen, or have a talk around the dinner table, it spirals towards the negative.”

It is difficult, but not impossible, to escape the trap. He suggests meditation, breathing exercises, positive affirmations and walking. “If your mind is calm and at peace, more ideas can flow into it. It is important to first calm the mind.”

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of “owning the product instead of owning the process” of innovation and creativity, explains Tshidi Mathibe, post-doctoral fellow at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

She says when people are stuck behind their desks, or are isolated and too focused, they easily lose perspective. 

“You have to learn to collaborate. Talk to people. Expand your networks. Get out and involve people.”

Desai recommends communicating some of the business’s challenges with employees. He suggests an “ideas box” in the office and having brainstorming meetings. This helps to boost confidence and empower people. Managers or business owners are not the only ones with new ideas.

Vumile Msweli, a career coach and CEO of Hesed Consulting, says sometimes people feel like their work “becomes repetitive”. 

“You tend to do the same thing over and over again, despite circumstances having changed,” she says.  

Msweli recommends that leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners spend time exposing themselves to a different industry. She is in the business of consulting, but she “purposefully” spends time in education through lecturing.

She also creates opportunities to engage with executives in different industries to see what they consider to be their “best practices”. This engagement enables her to see how they approach problems and how they service their clients. “Try to pick up trends from other industries that you can adapt to your own industry. That makes you relevant.”

“Diversity in thought and experience is the quickest way to breed relevance and innovation,” says Msweli, who strongly advocates the power of travel to expose yourself to other markets. It can include visiting another city, another industry, or another group of people that looks and thinks differently from you and comes from a different background to you.

Mathibe says you cannot be in the business of ideas and be lazy to read. “The more you read, the more ideas will come. You can read newspapers, novels, manuals, but keep equipping your mind. Keep reading.”

Get help 

Desai says speaking to other business leaders and attending seminars to improve your skills is a good start, but he strongly recommends finding a mentor.

“A mentor is critical as they can share valuable experiences, they offer network opportunities and they can give reassurance. They will give you encouragement and will help you explore ideas, set achievable goals, develop contacts and identify resources.”

Desai says more than 90% of start-ups admit that mentorship was instrumental to their success. “Your advances in life and in business are amplified by having the right mentor.”

They come with creative ideas and a fresh approach because they have to keep abreast of the latest developments, not only in a specific sector but much more broadly. 

Finding the right mentor is as important as finding one, he says. You have to decide what it is that you need from a mentor. Do you need a sounding board for your business challenges, someone who can offer advice and guidance, help with career development or help to keep a work-life balance?

Get going 

Desai suggests that people should not “sit down with their problems” when they become stuck. His advice is to take the problems for a walk and discuss them with someone else. Look at the challenges you have overcome, and be confident that you will be able to face the new ones. 

A 2014 study by Stanford researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Scwartz found that walking could increase an individual’s creative input by an average of 60%.

And it doesn’t matter whether it is outdoors or in a gym. 

They say that the act of walking might “increase the ease with which associate memories [are] activated”. In short, walking relaxes “inhibitory competition among memories and allowing ideas with low levels of activation to push through”.

“Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We may finally be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why.”

This article originally appeared in the 24 October edition of finweek magazine. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here. 


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