How to Harness the Creative Power of the Daily Shower (at Work)

Here are four things companies are doing to bring the creativity we often experience in the shower to the workplace.

ljubaphoto/Getty Images
ljubaphoto/Getty Images

You may have seen the research about why most of us come up with great ideas in the shower. It’s the same reason why you often come up with great ideas seemingly out of nowhere while pondering life in other parts of the bathroom, or even while taking long drives alone in your car.

Quite simply, you are relaxed, comfortable, and unconstrained from judgment. With that mindset come great ideas or solutions to things you have been pounding your head against your desk in your office to solve.

Knowing this research, many entrepreneurs have tried to take their showers to new levels with all sorts of creative shower tricks, and others have even traveled to strange places, including surfing trips around the world, all in the pursuit of that great creative and innovative thought.

Can this be transferred to the workplace?

Clearly, no one is funding the “shower stall in every cubicle” initiative, and most companies don’t have the budget to send all of their employees on paid surfing trips.

So how do you build that shower concept into your culture?

Space Design

There are companies out there who specialize in this kind of thing. Many of you have probably heard about or even worked with IDEO, a global design company that helps companies design work spaces that create innovation. Google and Pixar are famous for this.

You don’t have to be Google or Pixar to do it, either. I have several clients who have gone the route of creating open, fun, engaging, work spaces to drive free thinking, including Demonware, a multi-site small company in the video game industry.

It certainly creates an environment that feels a lot different than the cube farms I grew up with. But is space design enough?

Moving Beyond Space Design

A physical environment is a critical piece to creative thinking. But the very notion of the shower is that you are in a place that is completely relaxing and unconstrained place. Even the best work spaces are still spaces at work. The very concept of being at work, even in the coolest office in the world, works against you.

Here are a few other things companies do:

1. Offer formal sabbatical programs

Some companies have adopted the notion of giving people large blocks of time away after a certain period of time. In some cases, the sabbatical isn’t optional and is scheduled on a cadence and is viewed as a reward.

The reason behind it is that everyone needs time to reflect every few years, and that reflection can’t be accomplished in an ad hoc way. Taking several months is required because it usually takes a few weeks of detox before you are really in the relaxed mindset.

Business being business, companies that have adopted this often have an output required after the sabbatical. In other words, you need to come back with something to help the company. And most people do.

2. Allow all employees “open think time” offsite each week

In the absence of a full sabbatical, some companies opt to create an environment where it is not only OK but encouraged that all employees take formal “think time” away from the office every week.

The level of the employee doesn’t matter.

This is a very different concept than working virtually or working from home. Any of us who have worked in those arrangements know that working from home (especially with families) is hardly relaxing, comfortable, and unconstrained from judgment. Sometimes working from home is harder than working from the office.

This is about getting out of your work environment just for yourself.

3. Create “quiet reflection” offices in remote parts of the work space

If the sabbatical or even quiet time away from work each week is too much, some companies have simply created designated offices that are meant for reflection. I’ve worked with several who have done this.

On the surface, it may seem a bit odd to walk into a dark room off in the corner of the building with no desks, no phones, and only a nice comfortable lounge chair. I decided to try it one day, though.

I became very relaxed very quickly and have to admit that I even nodded off for a few minutes, but I also cleared my mind and came out of there with some good thoughts on some things I was stuck on.

Maybe that’s what my dad had been doing all those years when he fell asleep at home in his chair supposedly watching the baseball game. He was relaxing and coming up with innovative ideas. Whatever works. If you can’t bring the shower to work, you can at least bring the concept.

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