What else are you doing while you are reading this blog? I’m guessing you’re doing at least one other activity. Most likely you are scanning this whilst commuting on the train, waiting in-line to pay for petrol or even checking this and your social media updates while sitting on the loo! Like me, you use these tiny moments, to catch up because there simply isn’t enough time in the day. In fact, if you’re anything like the average modern worker you always have too much to do and too little time, and that’s before dashing home to feed the dog, thinking about going to the gym, getting the laundry done…and then logging-on again to finish that final report. And in the meantime your boss is telling you that the organisation needs to be more innovative, and that you need to be more creative…
…so exactly when are you going to fit that in?
We know that the busier you are, the harder it is to be creative. In fact, research by Teresa Amabile (2002) shows a single crazy busy day can inhibit creativity for at least the two following days, and sometimes a lot longer. So wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow use our spare time when we are asleep to help boost our ability to be creative when we’re awake?
Well if you’re someone who likes to say ‘let’s sleep on it’ you are definitely onto something. Certain types of sleep state where you move between dreaming sleep (called Rapid Eye Movement or REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep has been shown to increase fluency, flexibility and originality of thought. Though we don’t yet know exactly how this works, the research suggests that: “sleep…may enhance the ability of people to access the remote associations that are critical for creative innovations” (Drago et al, 2010).
Creativity ‘vs’ usefulness
That’s all very well, but some of the obscure dreams we have about tap dancing dragons or such might not seem particularly useful for work – even if it’s very creative! But, this creativity generated in sleep can help us during the day with real problems. In 1869 the chemist, Dmitri Mendeleev, was struggling to find a way to order the elements. He knew what the problem was, he just couldn’t find the creative solution. Until in a dream he saw the elements of the universe arranged like a beautiful melody, each element connected and linked to form a harmony. Writing everything down as soon as he awoke, this dream was published as the periodic table we all remember from chemistry class. Mendeleev’s vision was accurate enough to survive centuries of scientific examination and, whilst newly discovered elements have been added, the periodic table remains exactly as he dreamt.
There are countless stories of insights in sleep solving the problems of the waking world, from pro-golfer Jack Nicklaus dreaming a new way to hold his golf club and using this to win big, to Frederick Banting dreaming a treatment for managing diabetes in 1920 that we still use today. Banting’s use of insulin allowed children expected to die within days a chance to live a full life – not a bad result from one good night’s sleep!
So how can we dream up new ideas?
Deirdre Barrett’s research published in 2001 shows that we can direct our sleeping brains to work on the problems we want to solve. Simply by focusing on the issue for five to ten minutes before going to sleep, and writing down your memories of your dreams first thing when you wake up, over 50% of people found creative solutions to their problems.
New research is applying these theories to help busy managers like you. Researchers from City University of London are working to develop ways for managers to use creativity during sleep to increase creative problem solving whilst we are awake. They are on the lookout for managers willing to answer a simple survey, join in a workshop or test out a new tool designed to make creativity in sleep more useful.
So if you want to get more creative at work by making your sleep more useful, why not offer a couple of those spare moments of time to join in!
Please take a couple of minutes to fill in the survey here before the end of July. As a thank you receive your free guide: ‘9 ways to a better night’s sleep’ on the last page. You can also find out more about the research by emailing: Vanessa.Longley@cass.ac.uk
Vanessa Longley is the Director of Fundraising and Communications at Havens Hospices. In her ‘spare’ time she looks for new ways to bring creativity into everyday working practice…and tries to get a solid 8 hours sleep every night!
Last week I met Ian Scott for lunch and a catch up in Edinburgh. Ian had recently supported us in a project testing a new look and way of communicating for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS).
I was pleased, proud and even a little over-eager to share copies of our new strategic plan and our new campaign, Keep the Joy Alive with its central CHAS alphabet which was created by the best designers in Scotland – the children we care for. The campaign aims to take CHAS fundraising to a new level. ‘It looks great’ he commented asking ‘when is it being launched given the board only signed off on the new organisational direction on 29th March?’
‘This week,’ I retorted ‘Buy the Daily Record tomorrow!’
His next question was a simple one;
“You joined Children’s Hospice Association Scotland in August 2016. You did the creative masterclass with Alan Clayton Associates in November. We did the focus group work in January. Your creative agency Different Kettle presented for approval your new look (and name) in March just before the board met to agree that new organisational direction on 29th March. And, here we are 31st May 2017 and you are now Children’s Hospices Across Scotland … you are a very different CHAS and you’ve launched a major fundraising drive … How did you manage that level of transformation in the time?
Ian’s question made me stop and consider the level of transformation that has been achieved in a short space of time.
It’s fundamentally down to having a great team of people working across CHAS that have one aim in common – providing the very best care and support for the children and families we work with. However the journey really began in 2015 when CHAS published the ChiSP report. It revealed that there were many more children with life-shortening conditions in Scotland than anyone had ever thought and we were sadly not reaching many of them. Our ambition was quickly, starkly and exceptionally clear. We needed to reach every one of those children.
This, I feel, nails the first of three key factors which took us to the launch of the Keep the Joy Alive campaign.
Focus. From the board, senior leadership team and right through to the front line there was clarity of purpose and a focus on bringing about the changes CHAS needed to make in order to make our ambition to reach every child and family that needs us a reality.
Ambition. We set an aggressive timeline – ambitious yet achievable. No major milestone was missed. Not hitting a deadline was never an option and any movement of dates was never ever actually discussed. To paraphrase the words of one of our founders ‘we understood what needed to be done, accepted that challenge and simply got on with it’. The pace simply accelerated when it needed to. We pushed hard, paused, reflected, regrouped took decisions and then pushed on again with implementation. With a clear articulation of our purpose – our ‘why’, the ‘what we must do’ had never ever been clearer. Although I’ll not deny in this process there were many very unclear moments, but we gained clarity through focusing on our purpose and simply pushing through.
Momentum. The approach we took to define our core purpose – our ‘why’, was quickly followed through by working in partnership with the children and families that we exist to help. We built our strategy as an organisation and the fundraising drive which will make all that possible on talking, sharing and hearing stories – the stories of how CHAS makes a difference as expressed by the children and families we care for. That level of grass-roots engagement not only guided our understanding of why we make a difference, it helped inform how we reach the many others that we are not currently reaching. It created interest in and excitement around the strategy and campaign. Why? Because we involved, we listened to our supporters, our staff, volunteers and families and they saw, in what was created, a charity that had captured the very essence of what they felt about and expected from CHAS.
We were nervous at unveiling a major change. So to hear comments such as ‘that’s CHAS’ and ‘no less than I’d have expected from CHAS – 100% effort’ from our supporters and to hear staff from the care team with new materials proudly saying ‘I’m a part of that’ is a relief and an awesome outcome.
We got to this point by listening to stories, the stories of our staff, our volunteers and absolutely the stories of the children and families. There is a unique story behind each and every one of the beautifully created letters in the new CHAS Alphabet. It will be the powerful stories of the children and families we support that will inspire people to donate the funds that CHAS requires to make a difference to each and every family across Scotland that needs us.
We launched last week and already we are seeing an uplift in income, our daily post-bag has been replaced by a post crate! We have also seen a very significant increase in levels of engagement across social media channels as our new campaign is embraced.
Keep the Joy Alive isn’t a quick and clever marketing strapline …it’s the very essence of what makes and will always make CHAS … CHAS. That will never change.
Iain McAndrew is the Director of Development and Communications for Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.
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