We do our best thinking during solitary activities: exercising, showering, driving, house chores... Walking is especially beneficial, the activity circulates more blood and oxygen to our muscles, including our brain. Yet it requires little attention to coordinate, leaving the invigorated mind to spend cycles on problem solving and creativity. We discover insight when we disengage from directly tackling a problem head-on, allowing our unconscious mind to explore pathways to a solution and allowing our senses to be receptive to inspiration. Sometimes not deliberately doing turns out to be the most productive activity.
The typical office setting — full of people in close proximity, artificial light, and noise — offers numerous distractions that prevent us from achieving enough disengagement, and deep thinking time, to be our problem-solving best. Coupled with a misguided management approach to push employees to work harder — Harder | Smarter: The Improvement Paradox — and we land squarely in the declining cycle of the capability trap.
"Rest is not work’s adversary. Rest is work’s partner. They compliment and complete each other." -Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Rest
The value from engaging others happens after our thinking produces a viable breakthrough, an idea to polish and seek input from others. Here we lean mightily into the value that open discussion provides. Peer thinking, brainstorming, fielding questions, and listening to feedback will help us fine tune our ideas, prevent wasted effort on sub-par choices, and bolster our energy from two-way discourse. Our communal engagement at this stage can create inspiration in ourselves and our colleagues — planting the seed of our ideas in the minds of others who are tackling their own set of challenges, ready to engage in solo activities that stimulate their approach to thinking.
See the whole series by using the Paradox Pairs Index