Give It A Rest!

Memorial Day marks the official beginning of summer.  For most of us red-blooded American males, this also signals the start of grilling season.  While the prospect of cooking does not normally generate excitement in the average guy, circumstances change when we add an element of danger.  Baking a casserole is boring, but risking smoke inhalation and third-degree burns while hovering over a rack of barbecue ribs is quite a thrill.

I joined the ranks of the Patio Picassos last weekend as I tried my hand at grilled pizza with homemade dough.  Unfortunately, my first attempt tasted like smoky rawhide topped with tomato sauce.  The crust was tough as nails.  I was mystified at the poor result.

Until I read the recipe again.

In my haste to give my pizza crust a kiss from the flavorful flame, I neglected a critical element.  I forgot to let the dough rest.

Innovation works the same way.  Research shows that our best ideas come when we step away from the problem and “let it rest.”  Our brains continue to process the problem when our consciousness has moved on to the next thing.  This is why your flashes of brilliance often come while sitting at a stoplight, or washing dishes.1

Here are three tips for “letting it rest” and finding innovative solutions to some of your most pressing problems.

  1. Create Problems – We often schedule meetings to solve problems.  Instead, plan a “problem generation” meeting.  Create problem statements, explore your barriers and support structures, and then give people a few days to let their minds wander and ponder potential solutions.
  2. Boss Your Brain – Early in the day, make a list of 2-3 challenges you face that could use some out-of-the-box thinking.  Then, tell your brain to subconsciously solve them.  This deliberate command sparks the valuable incubation of ideas.
  3. Don’t Get Too Lazy – Even though innovation requires you to let problems rest, it also requires an active mind.  The best results are achieved when your brain sets the original problem aside to begin working on an unrelated task.  So keep working, but change it up to keep your mind sharp.2

Much like my first attempt at pizza dough, we’ve given you a lot to chew on.  Over the past thirty years, we have seen leaders “rest” their way to success, and know the value of letting ideas incubate.  If you are looking for innovative ideas to develop critical thinking skills in your organization, just give us a call at (800) 386-5611.  We would love to hear from you.


1.       1.  A Review of Experimental Research on Incubation in Problem Solving and Creativity, Rebecca A. Dodds, Thomas B. Ward, Steven M. Smith, Texas A&M University

2.       2.  The Incubation Effect: Hatching a Solution?  Sophie Ellwood, Gerry Pallier, Allan Snyder and Jason Gallate, Creativity Research Journal, 21 (1), 6-14, 2009, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC







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