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How can mindfulness boost creativity?

City A.M. Thursday, 15 June 2017
How can mindfulness boost creativity?Leaders across the UK are entering unknown territory now Brexit negotiations are looming on the horizon.

But when it comes to business, a team’s creativity will ultimately decide a company’s success or failure when navigating through these challenging times.

Focusing on the present moment through the practice of mindfulnesscan help you and your team be more innovative. Here are some practical ways you can use mindfulness to develop creativity.

*Quality questions*

If you’re an expert in your profession there is a danger that you stop asking questions, particularly of less-qualified people around you. The ultimate risk here is complacency or what is known as “groupthink”, where team members conform to group decisions and are reluctant to share their ideas. This can ultimately lead to bad outcomes in the workplace and crush your team’s creativity.

Try this: challenge your assumptions. Ask questions and listen. Mindfulness practice encourages openness and curiosity to what is arising in the present moment.

*Value listening*

Google recently carried out research which found the secret to best-performing teams was psychological safety. This depends on equal turn-taking during conversation, average social sensitivity, no one shutting other people down, and a culture where different opinions are appreciated.

Try this: in your next meeting, try to give your full attention to your colleague. Try to be open and interested in what they are saying. If your mind wanders off bring your attention back to the speaker. When they stop talking, ask them an open questions and resist the desire to immediately give your opinion.

*Process orientation*

A common obstacle to creativity is prioritising results over processes.

Try this: instead of just being focused on the end goal, get interested in the process and see what you can learn from it. Continue asking questions throughout the process.

Practising mindfulness naturally instills process orientation because the focus is on our experience in the present moment without being fixed on a particular outcome.

*Read more*: Podcast: Mindfulness in the office, and how to be happy at work

*Manage your nervous system*

Leaders need to hold the creative container for the team. Whenever we’re dealing with setbacks or the unknown people tend to enter “caveman” territory. It is the leader´s job to keep the process going.

Try this: when you feel triggered in any way, use this short breathing exercise to get yourself back into the control zone. Take a few conscious breaths through your nose, inhaling deeply all the way into your abdomen. Exhale through your mouth with pursed lips. Count to two on your inhale and elongate your exhale by counting to four. The key is to make your exhale slightly longer than your inhale.

*Letting Go*

Trusting and letting go is often a problem for successful, driven people. As a leader you need to do this or you’ll suffocate your team’s creativity. With one person micromanaging the creative process, there’s no room for anything unexpected to develop. Sometimes an unusual mash-up of personalities gives rise to creativity as it shakes up our everyday thinking.

Try this: notice if you have a tendency to want to control everything and everyone around you. Mindfulness practice encourages letting go, by observing what arises in the present moment, without being attached to it.

Using mindfulness in your workplace can help you create a culture which allows creativity to blossom. But perhaps even more importantly, it will allow your team to be more flexible in the process.
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